Crime chiefs warn 750,000 British men may be attracted to children

Published by The Mail on Sunday (21st June, 2015)

Up to 750,000 men living in Britain may have an interest in having sex with children, the Government has been warned.

A shocking analysis by the National Crime Agency reveals that about one in 35 adult males poses a potential risk of being a child abuser or of seeking out child sex images online.

Horrifically, as many as 250,000 men may be sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children – defined as those under 12 – according to the findings disclosed exclusively to The Mail on Sunday.

Phil Gormley, the deputy director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: ‘We are starting to get a real sense of the scale.’ He also warned that paedophiles are so numerous that ‘the reality is that we are all living not far away from one’.

Calling for an urgent new approach to safeguard children from potential abusers before they strike, he said: ‘If all we have is arrest and incarceration that will not help them come forward.’

Among new measures being developed is a system that would alert minors when they are being groomed by men posing as fellow children when talking to them through Facebook or other social networking sites.

Software will look for clues in the pattern of behaviour being used by predators before raising the alarm with a ‘traffic light’ system of warnings.

Senior police, politicians and child protection groups want to spark debate over the best way to encourage paedophiles to seek assistance before they harm children – but Mr Gormley accepts that this is an ‘uncomfortable discussion’ for the public.

The shocking figures come from estimates based on academic research and the best available evidence from other sources. They indicate that between one and three per cent of males have paedophilic tendencies, and match figures from other countries in Europe.

Not all the men act on their deviant desires. One expert dealing with paedophiles estimated from his experiences that about half of such men recognise the dangers and want help controlling their urges.

However, the NSPCC warns that the figures, though shocking, may still be an underestimate of the number of potential abusers. The charity says at least one in 12 children has suffered assault.

Last year alone, a warning that pops up in response to Google searches for illegal images of children was set off three million times in Britain. Yet Google is used in only about half the searches for child pornography.

A Home Office source described the scale of the problem as ‘mind-boggling’, with huge implications across child protection services, courts, police, prisons, probation services and schools.

The NCA’s disturbing disclosure comes as public bodies grapple with the scale of child abuse highlighted by scandals including the Jimmy Savile affair and assaults committed by gangs in Rotherham.

Official bodies are coming under increasing strain in dealing with the problem. Investigations by police in England and Wales into child sex abuse have risen by 71 per cent since 2012, with the number of cases this year projected to reach 113,000.

Meanwhile, child abuse investigations by the NCA – the body dubbed ‘Britain’s FBI’ as it has a far wider reach than local police forces – have risen from single figures when it was set up almost two years ago to more than 150 today.

More than one in six prisoners is now a sex offender. Many of them are housed in eight specialist jails, up from five just two years ago.

The Government is so alarmed that it has appointed a Minister dedicated to preventing child abuse, the first such post in British history.

Karen Bradley said: ‘One of the biggest challenges is that the country doesn’t yet appreciate the true scale of the problem of child abuse, whether that is abuse that has happened in the past or that is happening right now in our communities, in our homes or online.’

In an article today, Ms Bradley says this is ‘a watershed moment’ and called on the British public to come to terms with the issue. In her first public intervention since taking the job she says: ‘We must look unblinkingly at the reality. Raise our voices when we suspect a child is at risk and work together to find solutions.’

Three months ago Home Secretary Theresa May issued a stark warning that Britain did not yet realise the massive scale of sexual exploitation of children, adding that abuse runs through every level of society.

Last week, the NSPCC issued a report revealing soaring levels of sexual offences against minors and of children taken into care. The majority of abuse victims were aged between 12 and 16, but more than one in four were younger.

‘This is just the tip of the iceberg,’ said John Brown, who heads the charity’s sexual abuse programme. ‘So much abuse and exploitation goes undetected when the only witnesses are the offender and the child. It only emerges years later, as we saw with Savile.’

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