[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 12:04 GMT
'Unit needed' to tackle net porn
Porn site
Operation Ore has led to thousands of UK arrests
A body to co-ordinate investigations into internet child pornography has been proposed by police chiefs.

It comes as new figures, released by the children's charity NCH, show arrests and convictions in England and Wales have quadrupled in two years.

The unit, dubbed the UK Internet Safety Centre, would be staffed by police, charity workers and computer experts.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) has submitted its plans for the 3m unit to the Home Office.

Many police admit that they are still only touching the tip of a very ugly iceberg
John Carr, NCH

It would be a part of the government's planned FBI-style investigation bureau, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

While crimes would still be investigated by local police, the new unit would co-ordinate efforts with international law enforcement, charities and the computer industry.

'Massive consultation'

Stuart Hyde, of Acpo, says he has sent his proposals to prisons minister Paul Goggins.

"We have undertaken a massive consultation exercise with all the charities, law enforcement agencies and representatives from industry, and they all want a national body," Mr Hyde said.

We are not going to go cap-in-hand to the government to set this up
Stuart Hyde
Acpo

The Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales noted this week how much time the cases were taking up for individual forces - sometimes to the detriment of other types of child protection.

NCH says 2,234 people were cautioned or charged in 2003, compared with 549 in 2001.

The charity said the arrest figures showed the urgent need for a centre to be established.

NCH's internet safety advisor John Carr said the "astonishing" figures reflected the arrests made during Operation Ore - a police operation hunting web paedophiles launched in 2002.

"But given ongoing police activity, the worry is that they represent not a blip but a new 'normality'," he said.

"Many police admit that they are still only touching the tip of a very ugly iceberg."

Funding

Both police and NCH expressed concern over how the centre will be funded.

"We are not going to go cap-in-hand to the government to set this up," Mr Hyde said.

The unit would cost around 3m, but this would be offset by "the added value of more cost-effective policing", he added.

Mr Carr said he hopes ministers will resolve funding issues very soon.

"What NCH says is that we want a new national centre - and we want it now."

The Home Office confirmed that prisons minister Paul Goggins had chaired a meeting of the task force on child protection where the new unit was discussed.

"We look forward to receiving detailed proposals from Acpo," a spokeswoman said.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the unit would tackle child porn on the web



RELATED BBC LINKS:


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific