“Violence Against Women and Girls presents increased risk to local communities if the issues are not addressed efficiently and effectively.”
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has called for criminal sanctions to be introduced on senior managers of social media companies whose actions put kids at risk as part of a strengthening of the UK Online Safety Bill.
Criminal sanctions would come where there is a clear evidence of repeated and systemic duty of care failings that result in a significant risk of exposure to illegal harm.
Andy Burrows (below), head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: “Offenders, seeking to groom and coerce children, have taken advantage of young people spending more time alone and online during the pandemic, resulting in record numbers of child sexual abuse reports to Police Scotland.
“But even before the pandemic began we were seeing a worrying rise in such offences. This is because at the heart of the problem lies the refusal of tech firms to make children’s safety a priority.
“It is crucial that the UK Government significantly strengthens its Online Safety Bill to more effectively tackle online abuse and prevent children being exposed to entirely avoidable harm.
“We are calling for named senior managers of tech firms to be held personally liable for design choices that put children at risk. And the Bill must also compel firms to work together to tackle how abusers use multiple social networks to contact children, before they move across to risky encrypted messaging and live-streaming sites.”
An initial Police Scotland review of the national police response to public protection, which covers sex crimes, agreed that their work should be broader than an examination of demand, resources and force structures.
A Public Protection Programme Board has now been established as the force says the programme of work will look at improving national and local approaches to adapt to what they call “shifting demand and vulnerabilities”.
Mr Graham added:”An opportunity exists to review, refresh and renew our existing approach and improve upon it. Whilst Police Scotland has made significant progress in tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, we recognise there is much more that can be achieved to ensure we effectively protect women and girls.”
He said that the impact of the Covid crisis, has an influence on the development the force strategy.
“It is clear that the shifting and increasingly complex landscape requires the service to change and adapt, to enable us to respond appropriately and effectively,” he said. “Policing is, fundamentally, public protection, however the growing demand in terms of the policing response to Violence Against Women and Girls and indeed all abuse and exploitation of people, creates challenging decisions around resources, prioritisation and funding.”
He says that increased reporting may, in part, be attributed to increased public trust and confidence in policing response coupled with a proactive approach.
He said the murder in March last year of 33-year–old marketing executive Sarah Everard in South London, England was among the high profile events that have given rise to public concerns at UK level.
“Whilst Police Scotland has made tangible progress in tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, these events have further highlighted the need to continually review and improve our approaches,” he said.
According to Police Scotland figures, since September 2020, Police Scotland’s online child sexual abuse and exploitation enforcement teams have undertaken action in respect of 1226 of the suspect investigation packages generated from these referrals. This has resulted in the apprehension of 586 individuals and 1081 children protected.
In autumn 2021 Police Scotland launched a That Guy online campaign focused on male sexual entitlement and misogynistic attitudes, which they say act as enablers to serious sexual offending.
Police have said the campaign has been a “resounding success” having been viewed by 2.9 million Twitter users and shared millions of times via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Our pioneering new laws will put more responsibility on social media platforms to protect their users, particularly children.
“Tech firms will need to remove illegal content such as child sexual abuse, and if they fail to do so they will be held to account through huge fines, service suspension and their bosses could be held criminally liable.”
Source: The Herald Scotland