My Lords, we will always ensure that police and other crime-fighting agencies have access to the powers and resources that they need to tackle child abuse in all its forms. The National Crime Agency is currently leading an unprecedented operation against online child abusers in the UK. In the past 12 months it has safeguarded or protected more than 1,000 children, and 706 arrests have been made by forces.
My Lords, in July 2012, the Canadian police passed to CEOP—now part of the National Crime Agency—hundreds of names of people involved in downloading abusive images of children here in the UK. It was not until September 2014, over two years later, that Essex police interviewed deputy head teacher Martin Goldberg. He was found dead the following day, with thousands of images of children on his computer, some taken with a secret camera.
Reliable evidence shows that more than 50,000 people may pose a risk to children in the UK—and yet, by the noble Baroness’s own figures, only some 700 have been arrested. The Government say that those who pose the greatest risk are prioritised. How are they prioritised? How many of the 50,000 on the NCA list have been identified as posing the greatest risk, and how many have now been interviewed?
It is fair to say that Project Spade—as it was called—was a very regrettable incident, to the extent that the NCA has actually referred itself to the IPCC. There was no excusing what went on there. In terms of who is prioritised, they are the people who proved the most harmful to children. That is how the priority is worked out.
Will the Minister work across government to ensure that the whole children’s workforce in all sectors are trained to recognise the early signs of child abuse so as to help the police by reducing the need for cases to come before them at all? That will protect children.
My Lords, what training are the police being given in relation to child abuse, whether it is porn images or the appalling stories of Rotherham and others right across the country? It is perfectly obvious that the police are not being trained at the moment. What is being done about it?
There are highly trained officers within the NCA. The CEOP officers, of which there are 141 at the moment, are highly trained in terms of safeguarding and in terms of image viewing on the internet. I can provide the noble and learned Baroness with more information on that subsequently.
My Lords, would the Minister care to comment on my noble friend’s question: do the authorities take physical harm towards children outside the country as seriously as they do harm towards those within it? Is her definition of “most harm” inclusive of children who are abused anywhere else in the world?
My Lords, British national children, whether they are in this country or outside it, are of the highest priority for the Government. That is why some of the work being done on the internet has global reach. In fact, we are global leaders in this area.
My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that progress has been made in training front-line staff and others to listen to children and take their concerns seriously—not necessarily without a critical view—and make sure that the full range of services is brought into play at the right time?
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the General Medical Council did some work a couple of years ago, with which I was involved, on the involvement of general practitioners and other doctors in spotting child abuse? Is she also aware that one issue that was most clearly a problem was the multiagency relationships that she talked of in one of her earlier answers? Although there are good intentions in relation to multiagency work, is she confident that it is being carried out in a coherent way?