MPs blast ‘complete failure’ of Home Office to provide police with resources to catch online child sex predators
MPs have slammed the Home Office over a "complete failure" to give police forces the resources they need to deal with online child sex offences.
A damning report from the Home Affairs Committee accuses ministers of standing back while police forces struggle to get a grip of soaring crime rates – including a huge rise in online fraud and child pornography offences.
The cross-party group of MPs warned ministers that falling staff numbers, outdated technology and a “complete failure” of Home Office leadership had left forces unable to keep up with the changing nature of crime, and urged them to conduct a “root-and-branch” review of policing.
The committee raised specific concerns about the rise of online child abuse, calling for a new Commissioner to deal with the huge increase in the sharing of child pornography for which only one arrest is made for every ten recorded incidents.
Tory MP Tim Loughton who sits on the Committee said the numbers were “unacceptable”.
“We found that the police are bringing a shockingly-low number of charges for the possession of child abuse images, even though they are recording tens of thousands of offences,” he said.
“Whatever the cause, it is unacceptable that children are being put at risk by the collective failure to get a grip on this problem. Our report calls for a comprehensive strategy to address CSA online, led by the Home Office, including action to improve police capabilities in this area.”
Elsewhere the report warned that traditional crimes such as robbery and vehicle related-theft were increasing at an “alarmingly steep rate” - but said arrests and charges were falling.
MPs said the drop was a result of the “erosion” of neighbourhood policing which has been hit by budget cuts of over 20% since 2010.
The Committee has urged the Home Office to sharply increase funding for services nationwide, with chair Yvette Cooper calling on the Government to use next week’s Budget to pump more cash into policing.
“Police officers across the country are performing a remarkable public service in increasingly difficult circumstances, but forces are badly overstretched,” she said.
“Policing urgently needs more money. The Government must make sure policing is a priority in the Budget and Spending Review, or public safety and communities will pay the price.”
She added: “When the new challenges to public safety require major technology upgrades, new action with the internet companies or new partnerships with the NHS, then it is the Home Office who should be pulling that together.”
Labour pounced on the report, with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott saying ministers could not expect "safety and security on the cheap".
The frontbencher added: "Even at this late stage before the Budget, Labour demands the Government guarantees to provide enough funding to halt any more cuts to police numbers and begin to reverse their austerity policy which has done so much damage to policing.”