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Chief constable warns of spike in ‘hidden’ child abuse during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 July 2020

Hidden child abuse that occured during lockdown may not be revaeled until children return to school in September. Picture: Getty Images

Hidden child abuse that occured during lockdown may not be revaeled until children return to school in September. Picture: Getty Images

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Norfolk’s chief constable has said he fears a ‘hidden bubble’ of child abuse crimes may have ooccured during coronavirus lockdown.

Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey. Picture: SubmittedNorfolk chief constable Simon Bailey. Picture: Submitted

He warned that the crimes – both online and within the family – would only be revealed when all children return to school in September.

Simon Bailey was speaking at a meeting of Norfolk’s Police and Crime Panel where he revealed that the number of reported incidents of child abuse have fallen.

But asked by Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat councillor for Mundesley, whether that was a true reflection, the chief constable warned so far unveiled crimes of abuse may have occurred behind closed doors.

Tech companies using software rather than human moderators maye be behind fall in reports of indecent images. Picture: Getty ImagesTech companies using software rather than human moderators maye be behind fall in reports of indecent images. Picture: Getty Images

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He said: “We always recognised that there was going to be a number of hidden crimes, I spoke to the Prime Minister about them during the Covid-19 crisis, domestic abuse, modern slavery, child abuse and what we won’t see I believe until children go back to school is the true impact of familial and extra-familial abuse.”

Technology companies switching from human moderators to using artificial intelligence to identify indecent images may have been behind a fall in reported crimes, he added.

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“We have seen a significant drop off as a result but once human moderators come back I don’t doubt we will see a big, big uplift in previously unseen images of children,” he said.

“What I fear is that there is a bubble that we yet to truly see. It will be for both online and offline abuse and so much will depend on when the moderators go back to work online and in the offline world when children go back to school.

“They are then in the care of safeguarding experts, teachers and other professionals. That is when we will see the true impact.”

Mr Maxfield said: “I know from conversations with teachers that it is a real concern. It’s really important that those of us on the county council make sure the council is giving schools the support they need.”

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Mr Bailey said he was regularly talking to the council to make plans for September.

“We are preparing ourselves for a big increase in the number of reports,” he said.

“Obviously we will be working with schools as well to ensure that safeguarding leads in schools are all geared up to expect that. Those conversations are already taking place.”


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