CHILD victims of the “worst abuse imaginable” will now be supported by specialist officers, after North Yorkshire Police set up a dedicated team investigating online child abuse.
The force’s cross-county Online Abuse Team has been established in response to a national pilot study, and is expected to speed up investigation time, improve evidence gathering, and increase the rate of guilty pleas.
Officers split across York, Harrogate, Scarborough and Northallerton will focus on investigations relating to images of child abuse, including urgent cases referred to North Yorkshire Police by the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, cases uncovered by the proactive work, and cases referred by other forces.
Detective Inspector Darrin Knight, head of the Digital Intelligence and Investigation Department, said: “Technology is constantly changing, making it easier for online paedophiles to view images of abuse, we need to stay one step ahead of them. The new team gives us the resources to focus on this priority area of crime and further develop our expertise and knowledge.”
Members of the team will work alongside North Yorkshire Police’s Cybercrime Unit, Digital Forensics Unit, Mobile Phone Unit and Digital Media Investigator.
They will provide specialist, expert knowledge and support to officers across the force who are investigating online child abuse, and work closely with the Investigation Hubs and Serious Crime Teams to provide on-the-spot advice and input into ongoing investigations.
Det Insp Knight added: “Combined with the skills of the wider department, we’ll provide a comprehensive and specialist capability across the force.
“Everyone shares our revulsion at images of child abuse. Each image represents a child who has been through the worst abuse imaginable. By looking at them, offenders are creating a demand, and we are determined to disrupt that demand and safeguard as many children as possible.”
North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, said: “Caring for the vulnerable is one of the four priorities for North Yorkshire Police, and this new team will help ensure victims of some of the worst crimes imaginable are supported and protected, with offenders brought to justice, wherever possible.
“While North Yorkshire is often cast as a safe, rural idyll, these crimes can happen anywhere. It is important parents, carers, teachers and any adult with responsibility for children looks out for the signs of abuse and don’t hold back from reporting their concerns. The sooner someone can intervene and make a young person safe the better, and this team can then do the rest.”
The force also works alongside the UK’s only charity dedicated solely to tackling child sexual abuse, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, on its ‘Stop it Now!’ campaign.
The charity offers a free, confidential helpline providing advice and support to people who are sexually attracted to children to help prevent them from offending or re-offending.
All suspects who come into contact with North Yorkshire Police are given a leaflet outlining the support provided. However, anyone can contact them, from offenders, to parents worried about their children, to professionals needing advice.