Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal
MORE than one paedophile is caught exploiting children online in Scotland every day. We reveal the stark statistic at the start of a hard-hitting series on the risks to our kids.
MORE than one paedophile a day has been arrested in Scotland for sexually exploiting children online in the past three years.
The Record can reveal more than 2000 suspects, from professionals to pensioners, have been investigated for sickening offences since Police Scotland was set up in April 2013.
To date, 1700 predators have been charged with crimes against the most vulnerable, including newborn babies.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, the force’s head of public protection, said:
“Sometimes we dress it up and refer to indecent images and sexual abuse. We need to spell out what it means. It is the rape of children, from toddlers to teenagers.”
In the first of a series of special reports we look at the scale of the problem.
We also examine offending behaviour that will chill the blood of every parent.
And we highlight how to protect kids from groomers who use mobile phone technology to target them via chatrooms and social networking sites.
One of the biggest challenges facing detectives is the soaring volume of the material they have to investigate.
In 2013-14, police received 556 packages of intelligence about online child sex
Last year, the same figure was 946 – an increase of 70 per cent.
Statistics for adults communicating indecently with a child under the age of 15 paint a similar picture.
In 2015-16, officers dealt with 386 reports – more than double the 169 for the previous year.
It should be noted these figures, from the force’s Management Information reports, give an alarming snapshot rather than the full picture.
Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal
But given many victims are too embarrassed or afraid to come forward the real figure will be much higher.
Boal said: “The scale of the problem is difficult to determine but what we can say is that actually, when you start looking for it proactively or when you raise awareness across society then you see that this is a real, significant problem. It has been determined by the National Crime Agency as being a national threat. It is a national threat to our children’s safety and wellbeing, without a doubt.”
In the east division of the country alone – Fife, Forth Valley, Edinburgh and Lothian and Scottish Borders – a staggering 6.14million indecent images have been categorised in the past five years.
Boal added: “Some of these will be duplicate but that is the scale we are talking about. In addition, they have seen a further 2.5million indicative or borderline of indecent images and just over 15,000 of extreme pornography. In one case alone in Fife in the last year there was in excess of 500,000 images and videos.”
Boal believes it is time for a national debate about a crime committed in the shadows.
She said: “We need to start openly discussing and speaking honestly about the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. I don’t think we do in Scotland. We know that sexual abuse within families continues, an aggravation of this is the taking of images or filming of sexual abuse and sharing this with others or allowing those images to be distributed. We know adults are grooming children online and forcing or coercing them to expose themselves or perform sex acts on themselves which are then recorded and shared and distributed with others. We know there are adults who groom children online to then arrange to meet them and force or coerce them to take part in sexual acts with them or other adults and this can be filmed, shared and distributed. And we know older children, believing they can trust their peers, are sharing images of themselves which are then shared with others. So there is a whole range of issues here.”
Boal also fears some aspects of the crime have almost been normalised through the language used to describe it.
She added: “Previously, there was reference to child pornography or indecent images. For me, such terminology perpetuates the myth that this is some risque photo of a 14 or 15 year-old. It is absolutely not. It is images depicting the sexual abuse, which is the rape, sexual assault and, at times, torture, of boys and girls of all ages – including babies. We have to start talking about this because if we don’t, we are not going to deal with the threat that is there in relation to children’s safety and wellbeing.”
One of the most disturbing aspects is the wide-ranging profile of offenders.
She added: “It’s not about a few dirty old men. This is not a small group or males of a certain age with a sexual fantasy. This actually impacts on a whole range of individuals. Anybody can be involved in the sharing and distribution of indecent images.”
And Boal has a message for the paedophiles.
She said: “For those individuals who possess or share the images and maintain it is a victimless crime because they are merely sharing or possessing images, it’s not. Behind every image is a child and their initial suffering is real and the repeat victimisation and humiliation is real. If people think the internet provides some sort of anonymity to abuse and exploit children then they have to understand there is no hiding place. For me this has to be a top priority for Scotland.”
This guy I met online would listen to all my problems and make me feel good about myself.
I honestly thought he cared about me, so I did some sexual stuff over camera for him.
As soon as I did, he turned really nasty and started threatening me because he wanted me to do and send more.
He’s really scaring me so I regret ever talking to him now.
I need help, but I’m terrified about telling my parents because they always told me not to talk to strangers online.
I’m finding the situation really difficult to cope with so I’ve started self-harming.
I built a relationship with someone I met online – they said they were about my age.
We spoke all the time so things started to get a bit
I started to really fancy them so thought it would be a good idea to send a picture when they asked. I feel so stupid now, because I’ve found out that they’re not who they said they are – they’re not even a girl.
I’m so humiliated and I’m paranoid that the pictures I sent will end up on the internet. What can I do?”
Everything has exploded around me and I feel like I only have myself to blame.
I met up with a guy I had been talking to online.
Some of our conversations had been a bit sexual but I didn’t think I would be in danger if I met him.
Now I know it was a mistake.
He turned out to be a lot older than I thought and he was really aggressive – he forced me to have sex with him.
“I feel so ashamed of myself for getting into such a stupid situation. I thought about going to the police but I’m scared they’ll say it’s my fault.”
THE BEASTS AND THEIR DEPRAVITY
The beast groomed the teenager using a string of fake online profiles.
He then arranged to meet the schoolgirl in Musselburgh, East Lothian, claiming to be a young man called Jamie.
But the monster dragged her into a field, where she was blindfolded, battered and raped. Unaware he was the
culprit, Walker was the first person contacted by the victim after her horror ordeal.
Detectives later discovered details of his plan to attack the girl on his laptop.
Last June, depraved Walker, 37, was jailed for 10 years.
RETIRED dinner lady Muriel Melville sexually abused a three-year-old girl and sent a picture of it to her younger lover.
Melville, 73, broke down in the dock as she was sentenced to two years and four months at Edinburgh High Court last September.
She met co-accused lover Michael Leith in an online chat forum where he expressed interest in raping a child.
Melville, of Dunfermline, told Leith that “in a way” she would rather have sex with a child than an adult.
She also mentioned she had thought about abusing kids and her feelings for child sex were “very much alive in me now”.
Melville admitted sexually assaulting the child, sending grossly offensive or indecent messages and possessing and distributing indecent photos. The assault happened in Dunfermline between July 2013 and April 2014.
UNIVERSITY student Andrew Byrne groomed a staggering 250 girls and boys for sex.
The predator admitted a vile catalogue of abuse against kids as young as eight, who he found online.
Byrne, 20, was snared as part of Operation Defender, the biggest investigation of its kind in Scotland.
At the High Court in Glasgow, he pleaded guilty to 32 charges, including having sex with three 13-year-old girls and a 14-year-old.
Sickeningly, he had convinced one of the 13-year-olds that he was “a teacher of sex”.
Byrne, who was a microbiology student at Glasgow University, was jailed for six years in 2010.
WHERE TO FIND HELP
LESLEY BOAL urged parents to have a “calm, open conversation” with kids about the dangers that lurk on the internet.
The senior officer said: “I am conscious that for some it is a difficult subject to raise either because it is about sex or it’s about the internet and for some parents and carers that’s an Achilles heel. What I would like parents and carers to do is if they feel at all concerned how to broach these subjects, is to go on the internet and the CEOP Think U Know website.”
The website – www.thinkuknow.co.uk – features easy to follow advice on a range of subjects.