Internet Pornucopia; the Lure of Easily-Accessed Pornography on the Internet Has Led to a Huge Explosion in the Number of People Looking at Indecent Images of Children. Home Affairs Correspondent Richard Warburton Examines the Pitfalls of the Web
Byline: Richard Warburton
Before the dawn of the internet, paedophiles moved in a dark, sinister underworld in sordid attempts to purchase and swap sexually explicit images of children.
Clandestine meetings and an evil network of some of society's most disturbed individuals existed for men to get their hands on illegal images that put children in the most degrading and disturbing situations.
It now takes just seconds for that network to work: a search engine found, a few relevant words tapped in, a click on a likely site and there they are.
From the perceived safety of their own homes, paedophiles can now use the most basic computer to find pictures that fuel their sick perversions.
It is just one paradox thrown up by the internet; that the 21st century's greatest learning tool, that has become invaluable to modern living with its huge banks of knowledge and information, harbours such unforgivable sites.
No arguments against censorship or debates for free speech can condone such heinous images that can be delivered around the world in seconds and accessed by virtually anyone.
As the internet has grown so has the number of people -usually white, middle aged men -being arrested for child pornography offences.
Remarkably, new figures from the children's charity NCH show that child porn cases have rocketed by 1,500 per cent since 1988 and it blames the internet for the alarming rise. NCH said 549 child porn perverts were charged orcautioned in 2002, compared with just 35 in 1988.
The charity said that the increase of crimes also includes the increasing number of children being physically abused by adults and it claims there is a direct correlation between the two.
'The increase in looking, collection and possession (of child pornography) is leading to more children being abused,' a NCH spokesman said.
He claimed that according to an NCH study at least one-in-three people who possess sexual pictures of children go on to physically abuse children themselves. Children are also preyed upon by paedophiles pretending to be teenagers while using internet chatrooms to entice them into meetings.
Worryingly, a recent survey showed that 77 per cent of people using the internet lie about their background, including their age or occupation, and there are now more than 100,000 chatrooms available for anyone to join.
The chatrooms are just another tool to allow paedophiles to get near children that police, like the West Midlands Paedophile Unit, are trying hard to conquer.
The West Midlands force claim internet related child exploitation is still relatively new, but has been the driving force behind a surge in the production of indecent images of children. The numbers of arrests and prosecutions are expected to rise further in the next few years after high-profile police investigations like Operation Ore -the inquiry into 6,500 Britons alleged to have used credit cards to view a child porn site based in American. Operation Ore led to The Who's guitarist and song-writer Pete Townshend being arrested and facing allegations that he visited the site.
Townshend was arrested last January after it was disclosed his name was on a list of suspects gathered by the FBI. …