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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 03:35 GMT 04:35 UK
Net paedophiles face crackdown
Police using the internet to lure paedophiles BBC
Online "enticement" is said to be growing
Internet paedophiles are being targeted by a new taskforce involving the computer industry, police, charities and the government, Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced.

A review of net content rating systems and implementing a "kite-marking" standard scheme for chatrooms with child-friendly services will be among its first tasks.

The overall aim of the taskforce is to identify and promote the best ways to protect children using the internet.


What is illegal off-line is also illegal online

Jack Straw
Its establishment follows a report by the Internet Crime Forum last week which highlighted the danger of chatrooms and warned that online criminal enticement of children, particularly girls, was growing.

Mr Straw said: "The government is committed to tackling child abuse in any form - paedophiles and child pornographers must not be able to use new technologies with impunity.

"What is illegal off-line is also illegal online. However if changes in the law prove necessary to prosecute and deter specific forms of online child abuse, the government will act."

Mr Straw will review the work of the task force, chaired by Home Office minister Lord Bassam, later in the year.

It hopes to develop "safe surfing" education and awareness campaigns for parents and children, and improve co-operation between police and service providers.

Exploitation

Mr Straw stressed the internet industry had to play had an important role to play in working with police to create a safer and more secure environment for children.

Nicholas Lansman, of the Internet Services Providers Association, said: "The internet industry takes the issue of child protection very seriously and is already working with law enforcement to tackle the problem.

"We welcome this new initiative and will join with other members of the taskforce to improve child protection on the internet."

Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam, Paul Burstow, who will sit on the new taskforce, welcomed its establishment.

Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Paedophiles must not be able to use new technologies
He said: "I am pleased to see that the government is finally beginning to tackle this most important and delicate of issues.

"I have been calling for stricter legislation to prevent children being exposed to the risk of exploitation by paedophiles and now there is a real chance to make it happen."

The announcement comes just days after police seized computer equipment during a series of dawn raids at the homes of suspected internet paedophiles.

A 13-year-old boy was among the 33 people arrested on Tuesday as a result of police swoops at addresses across the UK.

Others detained by police included a man working with a national youth organisation, a psychiatric nurse and an IT consultant.

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