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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 01:02 GMT 02:02 UK
Centre to tackle net paedophiles
Paedophiles using the internet to "groom" children will be targeted
A unit to protect children in the UK from internet paedophiles is being set up by the Home Office.

About 100 staff, including police and child welfare experts will join the Centre for Child Protection on the Internet next April.

The centre will take on work being done by the National Crime Squad and will target those who distribute child porn images or "groom" children for abuse.

It will be open 24 hours a day so people can report suspicious activity.

The centre will take on the child porn role currently carried out by the National Crime Squad's Hi-Tech Crime Unit, and government spending will remain at about 6m a year.

But a Home Office spokesman said industry partners were likely to provide an extra 1m in technological support and seconded workers' salaries.

Online abuse crosses geographical police force boundaries, so it makes sense to tackle the problem at a national level
Charles Clarke
Home Secretary

Specialists from the telecommunications industry will also work at the centre, which will be part of the government's planned FBI-style investigation bureau, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

As well as allowing people to report suspicious websites and online activity, it will offer information and advice to victims, and will manage the national police database of child abuse images - used to identify victims and abusers.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said the centre would help the police do their job more effectively and help catch and prosecute child abusers.

"Online abuse by definition crosses geographical police force boundaries, so it makes much more sense to tackle the problem at a national level," he said.

Childrens' charities also welcomed the centre as "a big step forward".

John Carr, an internet expert at children's charity NCH, said: "It's the first example anywhere in the world of the police, the industry, child welfare bodies and the government working together under one roof to tackle internet child abuse."

And the NSPCC said it meant internet child abuse had become a national police priority, which sent a "strong message that the internet is no longer a market for abusive images of children".

The home secretary explains why the unit is being set up

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