- 14 March 2023
All Northern Ireland
Ahead of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Day on the 18th March, the Police Service of Northern Ireland are raising awareness of these crimes, with a focus on online offending.
The Child Internet Protection Team (CIPT) are the busiest they have ever been since their inception in 2010. In 2022, they carried out 145 searches, 43% more than 2021, seized thousands of devices and uncovered tens of thousands of indecent images of children. As a result of these searches, they made 56 arrests, an increase of 19% on 2021. From a combination of overt and covert activity, 83 targeted child predators in Northern Ireland were convicted last year, an increase of 38% from 2021.
CSE is a form of child abuse where young people are coerced to take part in sexual activity, manipulated by the receipt of gifts, money, drugs or alcohol in return.
Any child can be exploited or abused, no matter their background, culture, ethnicity, religion or gender. It can happen in the home, in the community, and increasingly, online.
Statistics show that child sexual abuse crimes, recorded by the Police Service of Northern Ireland throughout 2022, have rose to 2,276. This is an average of six a day, and an increase of 86 offences from the previous year. Sexual communication with a child online has increased by over 30% from 2021, while the possession of sharing of indecent images increased by 22%.
Child sexual abuse offences recorded included sexual communication with a child, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and possessing and/or sharing indecent images.
Detectives say they are cracking down on these crimes and have specialist teams like the CIPT who are operating in our communities and undercover in online spaces to target child predators who think they can get away with their crimes against children.
Detective Chief Inspector, Kerry Brennan said: “Children now have access to numerous digital devices at home, meaning they are at greater risk to be targeted by online predators with sinister intentions.
“We have specially trained Detectives policing our online spaces and wider community on a daily basis, but Child Sexual Exploitation remains challenging to investigate as it often goes underreported, hidden in plain sight.
“Child predators are incredibly manipulative and often children do not even realise that they are being exploited and abused.
“This is why, on top of continuing to target, search and arrest perpetrators, we are also working with youth workers, members of the hospitality and night-time economy sector and parents/guardians to educate on how spot the signs of CSE.
“We want to empower our communities to be the voice for a child at risk and have confidence to report any concerns they may have to us so we can investigate. We would far rather someone alerted us and for it to be a false alarm, than for us to miss a chance to safeguard a vulnerable child.”
For more information on the signs of CSE, please visit the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s website here: https://www.psni.police.uk/safety-and-support/keeping-safe/child-sexual-exploitation
To mark Child Exploitation Awareness Day, the Police will be hosting an Instagram Q&A (@policeservice.ni) with NSPCC today at 4pm to answer questions live, relating to CSE and the help and support available in Northern Ireland.