83 child predators convicted last year as sexual abuse crimes soar in Northern Ireland

83 child predators convicted last year as sexual abuse crimes soar in Northern Ireland

A TOTAL of 83 child predators were convicted in Northern Ireland last year following covert and overt operations by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Figures released by the police force today reveal that the PSNI’s Child Internet Protection Team (CIPT) are the “busiest they have ever been” since their inception in 2010.

In 2022, they carried out 145 searches, 43 per cent more than 2021, seized thousands of devices and uncovered tens of thousands of indecent images of children, they confirm.

As a result of these searches, they made 56 arrests, an increase of 19 per cent on 2021.

From a combination of overt and covert activity, 83 targeted child predators in Northern Ireland were convicted last year, an increase of 38 per cent from 2021, they added.

Ahead of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Day this week, which falls on March 18, PSNI officers are hoping to raise awareness of these crimes, with a focus on online offending.

“CSE is a form of child abuse where young people are coerced to take part in sexual activity, manipulated by the receipt of gifts, money, drugs or alcohol in return,” the PSNI explains.

“Any child can be exploited or abused, no matter their background, culture, ethnicity, religion or gender.

“It can happen in the home, in the community, and increasingly, online.”

DCI Kerry Brennan launches the PSNI's campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation

Statistics show that child sexual abuse crimes, recorded by the PSNI throughout 2022, have risen to 2,276.

This is an average of six a day, and an increase of 86 offences from the previous year.

Their figures further show that sexual communication with a child online has increased by over 30 per cent from 2021, while the possession of sharing of indecent images increased by 22 per cent.

Child sexual abuse offences recorded included sexual communication with a child, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and possessing and/or sharing indecent images.

Detective Chief Inspector, Kerry Brennan said: “Children now have access to numerous digital devices at home, meaning they are at greater risk to be targeted by online predators with sinister intentions.

“We have specially trained detectives policing our online spaces and wider community on a daily basis, but Child Sexual Exploitation remains challenging to investigate as it often goes underreported, hidden in plain sight.

“Child predators are incredibly manipulative and often children do not even realise that they are being exploited and abused.

“This is why, on top of continuing to target, search and arrest perpetrators, we are also working with youth workers, members of the hospitality and night-time economy sector and parents/guardians to educate on how spot the signs of CSE.”

Det Chf Insp Brennan added: “We want to empower our communities to be the voice for a child at risk and have confidence to report any concerns they may have to us so we can investigate.

“We would far rather someone alerted us and for it to be a false alarm, than for us to miss a chance to safeguard a vulnerable child.”

For information on the signs of CSE click here.