MORE than 300,000 people in the UK pose a sexual threat to children, a shock report has revealed.
The huge number of active paedophiles in Britain was revealed as crime-fighting chiefs warned of an escalation in online child sex offending during the coronavirus crisis.
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Police chiefs fear predators will be targeting youngsters through live webcam sites and forums while they are stuck indoors using computers.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) spells out the scale of the danger to children in its annual National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime being published today.
According to intelligence collated before the Covid-19 outbreak, there are at least 300,000 people in the UK "posing a sexual threat to children," says the agency.
With the overwhelming majority likely to be male adults, it means that more than one in a hundred men have an active sexual interest in children.
The NCA says it has been fuelled by the Internet, adding that such is the prevalence of child abuse images on the open web that their investigators were able to access them “in just three clicks.”
More than 500 child sex offenders are arrested every month in the UK and around 700 children rescued from abusers.
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The NCA adds that offenders have been "discussing opportunities to abuse children during the Covid 19 crisis."
NCA threat director Rob Jones, said: “Child sexual abuse remains a priority threat for the agency at this difficult time.
“Though we are working around the virus like everyone else, we are continuing to pursue high-risk online offenders to ensure they are arrested and children are safeguarded.”
He added: “The internet has undeniable benefits to society.
“But it has also enabled a section of society to commit increasingly horrific crimes against children through grooming, live-streaming and distribution of indecent images.
“Preventing offences occurring is always crucial and now more so than ever when there is masses of online traffic and a possible elevated threat to children.”
Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey, who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council response to child protection, said: “It is sickening to think that some criminals are looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis to cause harm online.
“Despite the issues that the pandemic will cause for law enforcement, child protection is still a priority and we remain totally committed to keeping our young people safe.”
Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, said: “This is a wake-up call for tech firms to protect children when they go online in this time of unprecedented risk.
“Kids are increasingly turning to livestreaming in the lockdown, and we know groomers will be using this to target lonely and isolated children.
“Big Tech needs to spell out how they are disrupting abuse and protecting our youngsters on social media sites that now have less moderators.”
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