Officials say technology that could screen images already exists and would allow security services to focus on the highest-risk offenders

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has called for technology companies to stop paedophiles uploading child sex abuse images as it attempts to track down an “exponentially increasing” number of British people viewing them.

The agency received 80,000 referrals over indecent photos and videos found on the internet last year alone and forecast the vile trend to worsen as people become increasingly “desensitised” to extreme pornography. 

 

NCA leaders said technology capable of preventing millions of images listed on international databases being uploaded already exists, and would allow its officers to focus on the highest-risk paedophiles.

 
 

Britain is the third-biggest known global consumer of the illegal material, behind the US and Canada, and security services fear the true scale of the threat remains unknown.

 

An average of 400 people are already being arrested every month on suspicion of child sexual abuse and exploitation offences, and 500 children being safeguarded in England and Wales.

The NCA’s director for vulnerabilities, Will Kerr, said he wanted internet service providers and hosting platforms to take more responsibility for letting users upload indecent images of children. 

“The scale has so fundamentally changed that we need a fundamentally recalibrated approach,” he told journalists in London.

“It is not sustainable for companies to simply identify indecent images on their servers and report it to law enforcement, when we know that technologically you can prevent it at source.

Police interview with Matthew Falder, one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles

“Why wouldn’t we stop tens of thousands of children getting exploited and abused if we have the means to do it?”

Robert Jones, of the NCA’s child exploitation command, said most of the material online has been recirculated but officers examine any new images to identify and protect children.