UK police struggling to fight cybercrime

A Home Office report has found that police are struggling to cope with the weight of Internet child porn cases, due to under-resourcing and insufficient training
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

Police are suffering increased workloads, under-funding and a "lack of relevant training" in their fight against Internet paedophilia, according to research released on Friday.

The report -- published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, a sub-section of the Home Office -- found that police are spending so much time investigating Internet paedophilia they are failing to pursue other child abuse enquires, due to a lack of resources and technical training.

The report's findings illustrates how the government is failing to do enough to combat electronic crime in the UK, according to some in the industry.

"In all forces where [Child Abuse Investigation Unit] staff undertook the investigation of child abuse images on the Internet as part of their remit, they commented on a significant increase in workload; the fact that the level of continuing growth in this area of work was not being reflected in resourcing; and the lack of relevant training.," said the report.

"In one force area, staff estimated that approximately one-third of their time was committed to these investigations, a large number of which did not involve ongoing child protection concerns. There were also issues raised by staff generally in relation to their level of expertise, particularly regarding technical aspects of these investigations, and the lack of training provided in this area."

The Association of Chief Police Officers was unavailable to comment at the time of writing.

The London Internet Exchange (LINX) has welcomed the report, but warned that better trained staff and more financial resources were needed to combat the problem instead of new laws and police powers.

"The report highlights the need for the police to have the training and the technology needed to deal with high-tech crime," said LINX regulation officer Malcolm Hutty. "Politicians need to recognise that simply enacting new laws is not sufficient to combat new types of criminal behaviour. What is needed is more highly-trained police officers and more specialist supporting resources to enforce existing legislation."

"LINX hopes that this will be reflected in the Home Office review of e-crime strategy, which is now overdue for publication," Hutty added.

Last year Home Office minister Caroline Flint MP promised an overhaul of e-crime strategy in the UK. The report, which was due in February, has now been postponed until after the General Election, sources said on Friday.

Internet security lobbyist EURIM has been pushing for special constables to be allowed to join hi-tech police units around the country. But a spokesperson from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit said it would only employ external experts if it needed to on a case to case basis.

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