Policing in 21st century

Submitted September 2010 in response to the Home Office's consultation on Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting police and the people:


The IWF was established in 1996 by the internet industry to provide the UK internet Hotline for the public and IT professionals to report criminal online content in a secure and confidential way. The Hotline service can be used anonymously to report content within our remit. We work in partnership with the online industry, law enforcement, government, and international partners to minimise the availability of this content, specifically:

  • child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
  • non-photographic child sexual abuse images hosted in the UK.

We are an independent self-regulatory body, funded by the EU and the wider online industry, including internet service providers, mobile operators and manufacturers, content service providers, filtering companies, search providers, trade associations, and the financial sector. Our self-regulatory partnership approach is widely recognised as a model of good practice in combating the abuse of technology for the dissemination of criminal content.

Partnership working

A key pillar of the success of the IWF is our close working relationship with our law enforcement partners. We do this is in a number of ways by:

  • Working with law enforcement agencies to remove online content within remit.
  • Supporting investigations to trace those responsible for such criminal activity.
  • Providing details of online child sexual abuse content hosted outside the UK to international Hotlines.
  • Sharing expertise, experience, and intelligence with law enforcement and other relevant organisations.
  • Disrupting the online distribution and accessing of content within remit by supplying a list of child sexual abuse websites to companies that have the mechanisms for blocking access to the content.

In particular, we have a very close and successful working relationship with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and through them the wider policing family. From a CEOP perspective this is not just on an operational level but also in terms of joint and reciprocal training. We assist CEOP with their victim identification process and provide evidence and statements to assist their prosecutions and indeed those of all Police Forces. Whilst there will always be a role for the local police force in terms of rescuing children at risk or detecting offenders, there is an essential role for a national body to provide an overarching strategic policy and coordination role able to work with forces nationally and indeed internationally because internet crime does not lend itself to local policing. We would therefore be concerned to see any diminution in the key role CEOP play at a strategic level, or devolvement of any intelligence function to a local level. We believe that high level leadership with the right expertise and operational focus remain required to combat child sexual abuse image crimes which are becoming increasingly complex to investigate and can involve a number of different countries in their commission.

In conclusion, whilst we accept that continually seeking improvements is a fact of good business, we remain concerned that any gaps in terms of resource, expertise or leadership as a result of changing the strategic role of CEOP would be to the detriment of the Governments committed aim of a safer internet for all.