It takes just one call from the public...

Published:  Thu 16 Jan 2014

Emma Hardy - IWF Director of External Relations - blogs on how today's NCA announcements show the effectiveness of partnership working

Sharing the load brings successes. We see that every day at the IWF – whether that’s working as a team to assess the hundreds of reports we receive of suspected child sexual abuse images, or when we link with the police in the UK and further afield to provide intelligence.

This week we have seen an excellent example of “partnership-working” at its best between Northamptonshire Police, the newly-formed National Crime Agency (NCA) and police agencies abroad.

Live streaming of child sexual abuse isn’t something we deal with at the IWF but it has unfortunately weaved its way into the ‘bigger picture’ of sexual offending against children. And it was just one snippet of information from the public that began the cascade of events.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Opens in New Window Centre, now a command of the NCA, has been telling us of a trend for live streaming of abuse for a while now; someone sits in their comfortable home and pays what we have now discovered is relatively small amount (by UK standards) to order up a cocktail of sexual abuse.

It’s akin to ordering a Chinese take-away at the weekend but with bitter and dire consequences for those involved.

After the order is placed, someone – possibly a family member it seems – goes off and organises for the cocktail to be delivered. A child, or children, are sexually abused in front of a webcam streaming thousands of miles to the person in their home in the UK (and other countries).

It was thanks to community intelligence in Northamptonshire – aka – a member of the public reporting something odd, that a known sex offender was given a routine visit.

From there, the officer involved discovered more suspicious goings-on which led to national police to work with other law enforcement groups in Australia and the Philippines.

We will never know the full outcome of that one piece of intelligence but what is certain is that the sex offender (Timothy Ford, now convicted) who was paid a visit by his local force has been stopped from moving to the Philippines and setting up his own child sex offending “business”.

We had a similar, but smaller-scale, experience at the IWF. Just one report to us of suspected child sexual abuse content from the public led us with the police, to trace, arrest and convict a man in Kent who had plans to snatch a child off the streets. This man (Darren Leggett who now resides at Her Majesty’s Pleasure) had created videos of himself raping children.

In both of these examples it shows the systems and processes work. They’re not perfect and there is always more which can be done, but we can be proud of the people at IWF, or CEOP, or the NCA.

I just hope that the person who made the initial report to police in Northamptonshire knows it was their snippet of information which has made a difference to countless child victims, and potential victims, thousands of miles away.

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