Friday 11 November 2011

Strengthening laws to combat online child sexual exploitation

Countries wishing to enhance their online child protection laws will now have the opportunity, following the acceptance of a legislative global engagement strategy presented at the INTERPOL General Assembly last week.

The 80th General Assembly was held in Hanoi, Vietnam and was attended by more than 600 delegates from 142 member countries.

As a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies, the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, supported a resolution to provide a “best practice” model for countries that currently do not have sufficient online child protection legislation, which was overwhelmingly endorsed by the senior law enforcement officials at the four-day conference.

Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) Chair and Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the VGT recognises that while many countries may have legislation in place, they may lack the capability to enforce this, or the training and expertise to dedicate resources to this area of criminality.

“Part of the answer to fighting online child sexual abuse lies in greater collaboration with international law enforcement partners. This cooperation is most effective when the countries have common cybercrime laws,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.

“Having domestic laws consistent with international standards is a vital requirement for law enforcement agencies to be able work together across the globe.

“Suitable legislation assists global law enforcement partners with evidence-sharing, extradition and the prosecution of such offences while also acting as a deterrent for potential child predators.

Peter Davies, CEO of the CEOP Centre and member of the VGT Board continued “The internet knows no boundaries and so enabling law enforcement agencies and child protection professionals to work more closely together, to not only protect children from harm but to hold offenders to account for their actions – no matter where in the world they are – is a must.

“Having a shared commitment to assist and guide countries that may require stronger laws to combat child sexual abuse is a key area of business for the VGT and CEOP will continue to share expertise and knowledge with our international partners”.

Following through with this commitment, the VGT declared its intention to cooperate with the Council of Europe to create a greater awareness of existing standards resulting in the development of a draft resolution.

“I am pleased to say that having the INTERPOL General Assembly accept this resolution, the VGT has commenced bridging the gap, providing prevention, deterrent and law enforcement measures to improve child protection laws globally,” Assistant Commissioner Gaughan said.

The resolution focused on the notion that the VGT will support countries without child protection legislation, by using the Council of Europe’s existing legislative frameworks. These include the “Budapest” Convention on Cybercrime (CETS 185) and the “Lanzarote” Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS 201). These conventions provide all 190 INTERPOL member countries with models for drafting and updating their current laws to address legislative gaps which may exist regarding online child sexual exploitation.

The VGT is aimed at combating child online sexual abuse worldwide. It currently comprises nine dedicated international law enforcement agencies (Australian Federal Police, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre of the United Kingdom, Europol, INTERPOL, Italian Postal and Communication Police Service, National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre, as part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Interior for the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as well as a number of private sector partners.

Since its establishment in 2003, VGT cooperation has helped to rescue hundreds of children from sexual abuse, conducted numerous targeted law enforcement operations and held to account hundreds of child sex offenders worldwide.

For more information visit the VGT website: