The IICSA begins today a public hearing in connection with its investigation into child sexual abuse and the internet. This is a huge task and clearly differs from the majority of other investigations which are considering events which occurred many decades ago, something which is of much less relevance when focusing on the part played by the internet.
This first public hearing which is due to last five days, focuses on the part played by the police and the National Crime Agency in responding to abuse facilitated by the internet as well as considering the current scale of online facilitated child sexual abuse and how the police nationally and regionally respond to it.
IICSA is also publishing three rapid evidence assessments linked to the internet. These consider:
- The behaviour and characteristics of perpetrators of online facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation
- Characteristics and vulnerabilities of victims of online facilitated child sexual abuse and exploitation
- Quantification of the extent of online facilitated child sexual abuse
The majority of the witnesses from whom evidence is expected during the course of this week’s hearing are representatives from the police, there being eight forces represented along with Chief Constable Simon Bailey who is National Police Lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations. Other witnesses include representatives from CEOP (the Child Exploitation Online Command which is part of the National Crime Agency) and two foundations which are focused on addressing this issue (the Breck Foundation and the Marie Collins Foundation).
As with all other hearings it will be live streamed (subject to a five minute delay) and transcripts will be available on a daily basis. There will be further consideration of the issues which need to be addressed in connection with the internet following the hearing. This will include calls for further core participants. As the investigation is currently narrowly focused to consider the response of law enforcement agencies no internet specific organisation is a core participant. For this to be a meaningful investigation they will no doubt need to be involved in the future.
Written by Paula Jefferson, partner and head of Abuse and Neglect at BLM.