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Operation Safenet

Staffordshire Police are warning people viewing sexually explicit images of children that the next knock at the door could be officers from a new team set-up to keep children safe from harm.

Operation Safenet was launched by Staffordshire Police in August 2015, with the aim of safeguarding children by detecting abuse and prosecuting offenders for the possession and distribution of indecent images of children. This new approach brings together police officers and highly skilled digital forensics staff, to proactively seek out those using the internet to view and exchange these images in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

Each week the team use the latest digital investigative techniques to identify where in the county illegal images are being viewed. This intelligence is then used to apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, allowing the police and digital forensic experts to raid the home to seize evidence and arrest those involved.

We won't give away too much detail about how our team identify the homes to target, but this innovative operation uses the latest mobile-based technology to enable us to up a digital forensics laboratory in the home of the suspect and examine the computers, mobiles, tablets and data storage devices within minutes of arresting the suspect.

The expert forensics staff work with the police officers in the suspect's address to immediately secure evidence for a prosecution so a quick decision can be made regarding charging and putting the suspect before the courts.

Safenet logoThis triage approach to the evidence gathering means police can immediately take action to prevent further offences and importantly take action to protect any children at risk. Ultimately that is the aim of Operation Safenet.

Staffordshire Police and its partners are committed to making children in the county safer. In addition, we're developing the ways we target people who commit online child abuse, grooming and exploitation.

Working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the team use an internationally recognised system to gather intelligence and we are already achieving a far faster charging decision, often resulting in the suspect appearing at court within four weeks of their arrest.

Protecting Children Online

You're never too young to learn good habits!

By following a few simple rules, your child can enjoy the internet safely.

group of children blueRemind your child:

  • How easy it is for a person to hide their real identity online. Not everyone is who he/she says they are.
  • Never arrange to meet someone they have 'met' on the internet.
  • Never give out contact details to someone they have met online such as their phone number or address.
  • Never give out personal details that may reveal their age, gender or location, such as their school or college.
  • Change their email address if they suspect someone they have met online has access to it.
  • To tell you if they're worried about something or someone they have come across on the internet.
  • Only use moderated chat rooms so they can chat to their friends, but are monitored to keep them safe.
  • Never email a photo of themselves to someone they have met online.
  • Don't believe everything they read - sometimes people don't tell the truth and will say things to manipulate them.
  • To use their common sense; if something seems wrong or makes them feel uncomfortable, then they must tell you or another responsible adult straightaway.

If you have a Community Group that meets and would like a presentation on Child Sexual Exploitation (The Signs) and how to Stay Safe then please contact the Preventing CSE Team via our online form by clicking here.

Sexual Images Online

Safenet logoProsecutable offences include:

If the video or photo is of a person under the age of 18 and is indecent - the police will become involved regardless of the circumstances.

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit material portraying someone who has not consented for the image or video to be shared - It is an offence to disclose a "private sexual photograph or film" without the consent of the person depicted, and with the intent to cause them distress. A person found guilty of this offence will face a fine or even imprisonment.

Other Solutions

If the circumstances do not fit the above offence, i.e. there is no intent to cause distress if the photo/video is for example, on one of the social networking websites, you could speak to the administrator of the internet site who may remove the material.

Otherwise you would need to obtain a restraining order from the courts to order the removal of the material. You should seek advice from the Citizens Advice or a solicitor about this matter.

Showing video footage of you without your permission and there is no intent to cause distress:

If you are over 18, the footage needs to be classed as obscene (the legal threshold of what is obscene is quite high and would not normally cover what could be classed as merely offensive).

If you are under 18 then the footage needs to be classed as indecent before the police can become involved.

Operation Safenet is Staffordshire Police's approach to tackling those sharing sexual images online. Operation Safenet to find out more.

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation involves offenders grooming young people and using their power to sexually abuse them. It can occur through a seemingly consensual relationship with an older partner or as a young person being abused in return for attention, gifts, alcohol and cigarettes.

In many cases the child may not even realise they are being abused and will not call for help. We urge everyone to help us to identify those involved in facilitating this horrific crime so we can stop this from happening and protect children and young people. It is everyone's responsibility to keep children safe by reporting any concerns they may have.

More than 1,000 officers and police staff in Staffordshire have now been trained to spot the warning signs of child sexual exploitation, and the force has taken on an expert to lead the fight.

Police and our partners can't rely on victims to come forward and report abuse. We need everyone to take responsibility to do all they can to protect children.

We will act on concerns, we listen and believe victims and provide them with support. Where there is evidence of criminal actions we will bring offenders to justice. Where there are concerns, we will work with our partners to protect those at risk.

Definition of child sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive 'something' (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.

Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child's immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person's limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

If you have a Community Group that meets and would like a presentation on Child Sexual Exploitation (The Signs) and how to Stay Safe then please contact the Preventing CSE Team via our online form by clicking here.