The NSPCC is calling for urgent action to stamp out the illegal trade in child abuse images after figures revealed that nearly 26 million have been confiscated in the last two years.
This staggering total comes from just five of the 43 police forces in England and Wales which were able to check their records. A sixth force said it had records of more than 10 million images going back a number of years.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request Derbyshire Police were not able to give specific figures, but said they deal with approximately 200 cases every year and that some cases involve a large number of images – over 500,000.
The figures are in stark contrast to 1990 – before the internet became hugely popular - when the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 hard copy images in circulation in the UK. Now, at least five times that amount are being confiscated every single day. The pictures are graded from level one - the lowest - to category five, which involves sadism. Many of the pictures involve children under ten and even babies appear in some.
The FoI also revealed that 102 people were arrested last year in Derbyshire for taking, possessing or distributing indecent images of children. Since 1995 the number of people convicted in England and Wales has risen more than 1,700 per cent from 85 to 1,495 last year (2011).
Fiona Richards, NSPCC regional head of service for the East Midlands, said: “The number of these dreadful images is absolutely appalling.
“The truly awful thing is that more and more children are being abused so these pictures can be produced and once in circulation they may stay there for many years. If we can halt this vile trade we will be saving countless children from suffering sexual assaults which have a huge impact on their lives.
“The authorities are working hard to clamp down on this but there are still far too many pictures available. It’s time the government and industry got together to find an answer to this corrosive problem which cannot be allowed to continue.”
John Carr, Secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, said: “These numbers beggar belief but we need to face up to the realities of the situation and find better, more effective ways of tackling it.”