Lincolnshire Police seizes millions of indecent child images

Police seized five million indecent images of children from computers in Lincolnshire last year - more than three times the number in 2010.

Lincolnshire Police said the rise was partly down to a new unit it set up called the Paedophile Online Investigation Team.

Officers working for the unit helped protect 35 children in 2011.

Det Sgt Paul Hutchins said many people who have indecent images of children also sexually abuse them.

"The academic research, the statistic constantly quoted, is that 85% of people who commit image offences have already committed a hands-on offence with a child," said Det Sgt Hutchins, who is in charge of the force's Paedophile Online Investigation Team, set up in May 2010.

During 2010 Lincolnshire Police seized 1.5 million indecent images of children.

Mr Hutchins said there had been a rise in the number of images on each individual computer - with one containing more than 800,000.

"Two or three years ago a large collection would be 60,000 or 70,000. We are now into the hundreds of thousands," he said.

New technology

Claude Knight, director of children's charity Kidscape, said new technology had made it easier for paedophiles to store and distribute images of sexual abuse.

"The new technology obviously has allowed this kind of growth. We should congratulate the Lincolnshire unit for their excellent work and providing safeguarding at a local level," she said.

"What we are getting here is hard evidence. We have moved away from times when police officers are having to chase brown envelopes across the country."

Peter Davies, a former Assistant Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police, who now heads the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said people must not forget every one of the images was "a crime scene".

"It's not just a sordid hobby as some people seem to see it," he said.

Det Sgt Hutchins said the officers working for the unit needed to be carefully selected, as the work involved viewing thousands of images.

"They are all of an age where they have a lot of experience. They come predominantly from a serious crime background which does help, yet they do spend an awful lot of time looking at images," he said.

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