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Online child sexual abuse not being prioritised by Police Scotland, HMICS reports

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Online child sexual abuse not being prioritised by Police Scotland, HMICS reports

Online child sexual abuse is not being prioritised by Police Scotland, a new report from the police inspectorate has said.

Although senior officers were committed to tackling online child sexual abuse, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) found there was no overarching strategy to deal with it.

The watchdog also criticised a lack of dedicated analytical support and centralised intelligence assessment capability for online child sexual abuse, as well as underfunding of the public protection department that should be leading on it.

HMICS said online child sex crime tends not be prioritised in the allocation of specialised support because the serious organised crime mapping process, which identifies the greatest threats to the public, and therefore priority for resources, has been set up to deal with traditional organised crime such as drugs and firearms rather than online crime.

“The lack of qualitative analytical and intelligence assessment hampers the force’s ability to identify future trends and developments, to formulate proactive responses, and to task specialist resources,” the report says.

HMICS also found that data around online child sexual abuse was poor, in part due to the disparate legacy systems used by different parts of the force, making it difficult to be sure how many cases there are actually are.

Most of the work on online child sexual abuse was reactive rather than proactive, HMICS said, and there was very little use of undercover online specialist officers.

This makes it harder to tackle anti-paedophile vigilante groups that take matters into their own hands but pose a risk to the public due to their lack of training and regulation.

Concerns were also raised in the report that about a lack of clear support for child victims and their families and no overarching plan around preventative or intervention measures for offenders or those at risk of offending.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Gill Imery said: “Online child sexual abuse can take many forms but is, first and foremost, child abuse.

“This review focuses on Police Scotland’s response to online child sexual abuse; however, the scale of the challenge is such that it cannot be met by law enforcement alone.

“I believe there should be more consideration of rehabilitation and treatment interventions for some offenders, allowing the police to focus on those who pose the greatest risk to children.”

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