National Crime Agency says system realistically can't prosecute all 50,000 child sex offenders

The number of paedophiles in the country have grown to a level that police can only target the most dangerous abusers

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The Independent Online

The huge scale of child sex crime in Britain means that some paedophiles will escape prosecution as police target the most dangerous abusers among the 50,000 regularly viewing indecent images of youngsters, the head of the National Crime Agency (NCA) said today.

Keith Bristow said it was unrealistic to expect the criminal justice system to deal with every child sex offender and said it was time to start “thinking differently” about the how police pursued less dangerous offenders.

“The idea that every single one of them (the 50,000) is going into the criminal justice process is not realistic,” said Mr Bristow. He said government and care agencies had to play a role and it would be a “deeply uncomfortable” conversation as they settled on how to deal with the threat.

The comments followed an apology by Mr Bristow last week after the body charged with tackling the most dangerous paedophiles sat on information about 2,345 potential British abusers that emerged during an operation by Canadian police. They included information about two senior teachers who used their positions to secretly film children and a paediatrician who continued to sexually assault children because of a year-long delay before he was arrested. It emerged that more than 200 suspects are still being investigated, more than two years after information was first passed to the Child Exploitation Online and Protection Centre, a branch of the NCA.

The huge number of indecent images being seized has seen the priority given to those people most likely to physically abuse children amid criticisms of the resources available to carry out the task. Police said in July that 660 people had been arrested in the biggest operation for a decade targeting online child abusers, including doctors and teachers. But suspects are likely to remain on bail for months as experts trawl through the huge amount of data seized in the operation and interviews of the suspects are continue.

Senior NCA officers said that internet companies had to do more to prevent abusers from accessing online images, including blocking search terms.  Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced last month that the Conservatives would seek to revive the controversial Communications Data Bill, requiring companies to maintain records of people’s internet, email and mobile phone activity.

The measure – dubbed by critics as a snoopers’ charter - was dumped last year after resistance from the Liberal Democrats. Mr Bristow said that 13 investigations relating to children had to be abandoned because of difficulties in accessing online communications.