Technology allows paedophiles range of opportunities - top protection officer

Technology has opened up an array of opportunities for paedophiles, Britain's most senior child protection police officer has warned.

Norfolk Chief Constable Simon Bailey said he did not believe there are more people with a sexual interest in children now than there were 20 or 30 years ago.

He told MPs: "I simply believe that technology has now opened up an array of opportunities that were simply never ever afforded to would-be offenders before."

Mr Bailey, the national policing lead for child protection, said his "greatest frustration" is that "so much of this abuse is preventable".

He added: "It is the responsibility of the tech companies that are providing the platforms that are allowing people to abuse."

Figures indicate that forces in England and Wales recorded an average of 15 child sex offences involving the internet every day in 2016/17.

Last year Mr Bailey sparked controversy by suggesting those who view indecent images of children should not always face criminal charges.

He said lower level offenders should be dealt with through counselling and rehabilitation while officers focus on the most dangerous individuals with access to children and those looking at the most serious images.

Appearing at the Commons Home Affairs committee on Tuesday, Mr Bailey noted that most of those who view indecent images of children are not sent to prison.

He said: "We need to have a debate.

"There's no rehabilitation. We need as law enforcement to be given the time and space to target those individuals who you can't block."

Mr Bailey emphasised he was "absolutely not going soft" on the issue.

One option could be to force offenders to attend a course to address their behaviour, the officer said.

He added: "So much of this is preventable but at this moment in time the system is failing because so many people don't have to confront their offending behaviour."