Sexual abuse of children online in Scotland

Date: 10th August 2016
Category: Children in situations of exploitation

Police Scotland have arrested and charged 77 people for their involvement in online sexual abuse of children, involving an estimated 520 victims.

Police raided the homes of 83 suspects and seized more than 30 million indecent images of children, with around 400 charges brought so far. The arrests come after a 60 percent rise over a year in the number of indecent communications offences carried out by adults against children aged under 13 in Scotland, with Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable now labelling online child sexual abuse "a national threat". Shortly after the arrests, newly elected chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Vera Baird QC, warned that the cost of policing child sexual exploitation could grow to as much as £3 billion per year by 2020.

Baird called on the government to make sex education compulsory in all schools to help potential victims resist exploitation. This echoes the recommendation made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to the UK in June 2016 to make relationships and sexuality education mandatory and regulated in all schools to ensure quality and content (Concluding Observation 64b). Regarding child sexual exploitation, the Committee has also recommended the UK - including Scotland - to:

  • Systematically collect and publish comprehensive and disaggregated data on child exploitation and abuse, including through mandatory reporting, in all settings;
  • Develop and implement comprehensive multi-sectoral strategies on child exploitation and abuse, including online, to ensure effective prevention, early detection and intervention, at national as well as at devolved levels;
  • Further develop comprehensive services to support children who are victims or at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse;
  • Strengthen the capacity of law enforcement authorities and the judiciary to detect and prosecute child sexual exploitation and abuse, and grant effective remedies to the child victims;
  • Consider ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.