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Leading the UK's fight to cut serious and organised crime

Child sexual abuse and exploitation 

Child sexual abuse and exploitation can cause lifelong physical and emotional trauma for victims. Combating this terrible crime is one of our highest priorities. We work with partners in the UK and around the world to safeguard victims, bring offenders to justice and help children and young people stay safe.

If you are worried about something that has happened to your child online, report it to CEOP.

The threat from child sexual abuse and exploitation

Child sexual abuse and exploitation continues to increase wordwide. This is particularly true of online abuse, where children spend a large part of their social time online and ever-more-sophisticated digital tools protect the anonymity of those who wish to harm them.

However it is still the case that most contact abuse continues to happen within families, or is inflicted by acquaintances or people in positions of trust.

Online abuse is frequently carried out by lone offenders who access children, and evade detection, using the open (mainstream) internet and the dark web. Criminals will groom children both in person and online, and may travel to carry out their abuse in countries where offending is harder to detect or the law is easier to circumvent.

Children are often too frightened or embarrassed to report their abuse, and they may themselves be forced into drawing other children into their abuse. They are often tricked into believing they are sharing images with another child with whom they are developing an online relationship. They are vulnerable to blackmail as their abuser threatens to release the explicit photos or videos they have made in order to extort further sexual activity or money.

Our response

We protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse by investigating and arresting child sex offenders, protecting and safeguarding victims, and educating children and young people, their parents, and the professionals who work with them, about the risks from online sexual abuse.

Working with law enforcement, industry and voluntary sector partners – both in the UK and abroad – is vital to our success in designing out preventable offending, protecting victims and bringing offenders to justice in this transnational threat area.

As part of our international efforts to tackle this global crime, we chair the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of dedicated law enforcement agencies working together to protect children all over the world.

Investigating child sex offenders

We target people engaged in all forms of child sexual abuse and exploitation, both those carrying out contact child sexual abuse and those committing online offences such as creating, sharing or viewing indecent images of children, grooming or blackmailing children online, as well as those streaming ‘live’ and recorded abuse.

Our reach is not limited to offences committed in the UK. We track child sex offenders who travel abroad to commit abuse or come to the UK to do so. We also provide specialist advice and capabilities to support investigations by law enforcement partners in the UK and around the world.

As the central point of reporting for industry and international law enforcement, we receive vast amounts of intelligence about child sex offending. We use this intelligence to lead and support law enforcement operations worldwide in order to identify offenders and safeguard children and young people.

Protecting and safeguarding victims

Our child protection advisors support victims. They investigate reports of child sexual abuse and identify and safeguard victims, working closely with operational teams to ensure victims' interests are at the heart of everything we do. They also provide specialist support to police and partners in the UK and internationally, helping to safeguard and protect victims wherever they are in the world.

Educating children and young people

The NCA - CEOP Education programme aims to help protect children and young people from the threat of online child sexual abuse and exploitation, reducing their vulnerability to abuse, and increasing their confidence and ability to seek help from an appropriate source when they need it.

Three core products delivered by the programme include: Education resources for children and young people aged 4-18, awareness raising resources for parents and carers and specialist training and resources for professionals working within the children’s workforce. For more information visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk.

Latest news on this threat

Gareth Davis

A man from Runcorn has been given a life sentence of 27 years after he admitted to raping and sexually assaulting a baby.

Police special constable sentenced for online child sexual abuse offences

A man from Wakefield has been given a two-year suspended sentence for posting online messages fantasising about abusing children and possessing thousands of child sexual abuse images.

NCA logo

A legal requirement for UK companies to report child sexual abuse content on their platforms to the National Crime Agency was announced as part of the Government’s Online Safety Bill.

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