Published: 16 December 2020 at 17:30
ARU’s Policing Institute for the Eastern Region receives £860,000 of funding
A major new research and innovation programme to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation – an area experiencing significant challenges since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – has been launched by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
New technologies, budgetary pressures and now COVID-19 have led to major issues around identifying victims and those carrying out the abuse, prosecuting the perpetrators in court, and adequately supervising those on the Sex Offender Register.
Thanks to £860,000 of funding from the Dawes Trust, ARU’s Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER) will work closely with the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to help shape policy and develop practical solutions to some of the issues being faced.
The four-year partnership will be launched on Wednesday during an online event featuring Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary and the NPCC lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations, and Dr Samantha Lundrigan, Director of PIER.
The research programme will be led by Dr Lundrigan, with the funding allowing for the recruitment of two Senior Dawes Research Fellows and eight PhD students. It aims to benefit those working in the Criminal Justice System, including the police and probation services, charities, policy makers, as well as existing and potential victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
The latest figures from the National Crime Agency estimate there are at least 300,000 individuals in the UK who pose a sexual threat to children, either through physical or online abuse.
It is thought the rise in internet and social media activity during periods of COVID-19 restrictions could be fuelling an increase in online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Research published last month by the charity NSPCC found that popular social media platforms, such as Instagram, are increasingly being used by offenders to make contact with children.
Additionally, there is a backlog of 8,000 cases involving the indecent images of children subject to on-going police investigations in the UK, and the numbers continue to grow. COVID-19 led to the temporary closure of courts, causing a delay in cases being heard, and it is feared there could be lengthy delays within the Criminal Justice System even once courts fully return to normal.
Dr Samantha Lundrigan, Director of PIER at ARU, said:
Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: