A report released on Thursday by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) also said millions of indecent images of children were in circulation online around the world – and could be accessed from search engines in as little as three clicks.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national policing lead for child protection, has warned the increased numbers means police are having to prioritise suspects who pose the biggest threats to children.
He said: “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, and we have to look at a far more holistic approach … we are at saturation point.”
“All I see is the numbers growing, the scale of the threat growing, the number of children being abused growing and, actually, we should be having a public debate that says: what else can we do to try and meet the threat?”
And the report shows paedos were found to pay as little as £1 to watch a child being abused live, often from the Philippines.
Professor Alexis Jay, who chairs IICSA, said: “Despite industry advances in technology to detect and combat online facilitated abuse, the risk of immeasurable harm to children and their families shows no sign of diminishing.”
She called for internet companies, law enforcement and government to implement “vital measures” to protect children against online abuse.
The NSPCC called the report a “damning indictment of Big Tech’s failure to take seriously their duty to protect young people”.
The Internet Watch Foundation, which finds and removes online child sexual abuse images, said the “time has come for action”.
Chief executive Susie Hargreaves added: “There is no longer any reason not to be decisive on taking action against the predators who exploit and abuse children online. This report makes it abundantly clear there is no room for excuses.
“The internet industry and the government need to step up and tackle this head on.”
Thousands of paedophiles have also been arrested in the last three months during lockdown with raids all across the UK.
Most have been bailed whilst they have their devices seized and examined, UK police said.
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