NSPCC to double number of paedophile investigation units

Money raised from the NSPCC's biggest campaign against child cruelty to date will be used to double the number of paedophile investigation units in the UK.

There are currently half a dozen such units under the auspices of the NSPCC. The charity is the only organisation in the country with the right to investigate cases of organised child abuse. In conjunction with the police, this includes the power to search premises for child pornography material, including computer data.

According to an NSPCC spokesman the charity has a big role to play in supporting police investigations: "These cases are difficult to break and social services do not have enough resources to deal with everything," he said. Although not aware of any specific investigation into Internet child abuse, he said it was "something we are looking into" and conceded the charity may get involved in such investigations in the future.

A hard-hitting TV campaign went live last week to highlight the issues of child abuse. It is estimated that the ads, which will be shown after the 9pm watershed, will reach 90 percent of the adult population.

As well as raising awareness of the issues surrounding child cruelty, the charity hopes to raise £250m to fund its action programmes to protect children at home, at school and in the community.

Increasing the number of paedophile units run by the NSPCC is just one way the money will be spent. The first aim will be to aid over 100,000 children every year -- five times more than at present. Other schemes include:

  • increasing the number of calls to the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline,

  • setting up schools counselling teams in nine education authorities

  • starting a major study to reveal the real extent of child abuse in the UK.
There are currently at least 110,000 convicted child sex offenders living in this country and last year more than 35,000 children were deemed to be at risk of abuse. While there are no figures on the extent of child pornography on the Internet, police officers involved in breaking Internet paedophile rings describe the problem as "huge".

The NSPCC believes current levels of cruelty to children in the UK is " a national scandal" and hopes this campaign will be the beginning of a strategy to end cruelty to children -- in all its forms -- as we enter the next millennium.

Today sees the start of Part 2 in our Web of Porn News Special. ZDNet reports on the efforts of parents, police and governments to stop paedophiles operating on the Net. Take me to the Web of Porn Special