Met police deliver abuse warning as six-year-old girl posts ‘inappropriate’ picture of herself

26th March, 2021 2:33 pm

Police arrested more than 30 suspected paedophiles in dawn raids earlier this month

Police today warned of the threat from online paedophiles targeting children during lockdown as they revealed a six-year-old girl had posted an inappropriate photo of herself on social media.

Detectives highlighted the primary school pupil’s case as they revealed more than 30 suspected paedophiles have been arrested during dawn raids in an operation they say has protected 68 children from harm.

The Metropolitan Police also launched a campaign warning parents of the dangers when young people share intimate images online.

During lockdown, detectives saw a spike in reports of online abuse with youngsters spending more time on social media platforms.

Scotland Yard’s Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Unit is receiving an average of 60 referrals a week from the National Crime Agency, compared to 50 in 2020.

They carried out a series of warrants on 31 men aged 18 to 60 earlier this month, seizing 264 exhibits including computers, tablets and mobiles. The suspects came from various backgrounds. Many thousands of images found on devices were in the most serious category A.

Detective Superintendent Helen Flanagan, who leads the Met’s Operation Legatum, said the girl of six had uploaded a self-generated image on a social media platform. Thankfully, it was taken down by the site and she received safeguarding advice.

Det Supt Flanagan added: “The reality is we are seeking younger and younger children utilising self-generated imagery and not really understand the consequences.

“Once that image is out there and circulates, they quickly lose control of it.

“Officers have been continuing to work flat out during lockdown to track down those suspected of harming children and young people online.

“With this in mind, I want to continue to encourage parents and young people to take appropriate steps to remain safe online.

“The internet can be a great space for young people to play, socialise and learn, and offers wonderful opportunities. However, it can be used by offenders to prey on young people and commit serious offences.

“Lockdown has led to a significant growth in online use, including by children. Unfortunately, it also means there are a greater number of sexual predators out there trying to target and groom young people.”

Parents are advised to review and turn on safety features on devices, such as parental controls and privacy settings, to help protect their child.

Detective Chief Inspector Nathan Munson said the viewing of child abuse images is becoming more prevalent in society.

Officers are now seizing material during the forensic examination of suspects’ phones in major investigations into terrorism and street gangs.

Paedophiles sometimes convince themselves that they’re “only looking” but there is no such thing, he said.

Det Ch Insp Munson added: “Every image is a crime scene, with a real child being abused. When offenders look at or share that image, they are committing a crime and repeating abuse which devastates lives.

“Offenders really have to think about the impact on their lives. It’s not just the judicial penalty, there’s the future relationship with your family, own children and job opportunities.”

Police work closely with a range of partners across government, agencies, the technology industry, and the third sector to act quickly on referrals, remove images and protect young people.

Child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by viewing indecent images online.

Donald Findlater, director of its Stop It Now! helpline, said last year 239 people in London had contacted them for confidential support regarding their own or someone else’s behaviour.

He said: “They aren’t all the stereotypical loners of popular imagination – they are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.

“Some recognise what they are doing is wrong, that it causes harm, and want to change.

“We’ve seen record numbers contact us during lockdown – people who realise they need help to stop what they or their loved one is doing. People who realise that doing nothing is not an option. You don’t have to face this alone.”

Anyone can get confidential support from Stop It Now! by calling 0808 1000 900 or visiting stopitnow.org.uk/helpline.

Source: Evening Standard (March 2021)

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