Mobile phones linked to internet may fuel rise in child porn offences

Child porn crimes have rocketed 1,500 per cent since 1988 - and a fresh avalanche of porn could be unleashed by internet mobile phones, warns a report out today.

The massive rise in child porn offences is mainly due to the increase in use of the internet, according to the report from children's charity NCH (formerly National Children's Homes).

And the launch of mobile phones which can connect to the internet will make the trade more widespread and harder to combat, experts fear.

Child welfare professionals are worried the new phones will be used by paedophiles to visit child sex sites, take pictures of sex with children and trade in images of abuse.

It will make it difficult to trace paedophiles viewing child abuse images as well as increasing the risk children could be "groomed" for abuse while using the internet by mobile phone away from their parents.

Paedophiles have used the anonymity of the internet to prey on children - but some have been caught by tracing the computer's owner.

But the mobile phone network is even more private.

Prepaid mobile phones bought for cash cannot be traced as there is no record of who owns the handset.

And advanced 3G - third generation - technology will allow paedophiles to view child porn on pay-as-you-go phones, with impunity.

NCH said 549 people were charged or cautioned in connection with child porn in 2002, compared to just 35 in 1988.

The numbers were expected to rise even further when final data was published for 2002 due to the impact of Operation Ore, the investigation into 6,500 Britons alleged to have used credit cards to pay for internet child porn, the charity said.