General News

British police are lobbying for the power to block websites

Published Tue 20th Dec 2016
By itsAdult / General News

British police are lobbying for the power to block websites

 

Police need new powers to shut websites and curb access to social media to fight the threat of child abuse and revenge porn attacks, a chief constable said today.

Stephen Kavanagh, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on digital crime, said officers should also be ready to “push the boundaries” of the law and sometimes “go beyond what the regulations or courts accept” to protect the public from internet offending.

The Essex Chief Constable — among those tipped to be the next Met Commissioner — said major changes were needed because existing legislation was not keeping up as crime shifted online. He believed this was hindering forces’ efforts to stop offen- ces including child abuse, harassment, stalking and fraud, which were increasingly carried out over the internet.

Gaps in the law were also making it harder to protect women who have “their facial image Photoshopped onto awful pornographic or illegal images” or have intimate photos posted online without their consent. The comments by Mr Kavanagh in an interview with the Standard will heighten concern about the threat posed by child abuse and other offences online.

Digital crime lead: Stephen Kavanagh

The NSPCC recently warned that internet child abuse is now a “national emergency”, with as many as half a million men having viewed illegal paedophile images on the internet.

Mr Kavanagh, pictured, said he was deeply concerned at the scale of the problem and felt the “privacy lobby” had been allowed to “dominate discussions” for too long at the expense of public safety. He insisted that a tougher law enforcement response, including updated legislation, was needed.

“For us to be weak in this area will lead to children being abused, child abuse imagery being streamed, drugs being sold on the internet and various other forms of harassment and appalling crimes taking place,” he said.

“Crime has shifted significantly. If we knew that a building was peddling child abuse imagery or drugs I would get a warrant and raid it. There is the ability to identify where drugs are dealt online, child abuse imagery is being peddled, harassment is taking place — yet there is not the enforcement opportunity to shut those sites down.

“I’d like the digital element of crimes brought together — as the Offences Against the Person Act brought together different types of assault — whether that’s harassment, stalking, bullying, the digital use for selling drugs.

“Interpretation of existing legislation and how it is used by local officers is horribly inconsistent. There is some good legislation around revenge porn and cyber-stalking but ad hoc additions to existing areas don’t give confidence to victims or officers. We need clarity.”

His call for reform follows the publication of Office for National Statistics figures showing that nearly six million fraud and cyber crimes were committed in the year to the end of March.

The figures also revealed a 95 per cent rise in harassment cases, most online. Female campaigners have complained about the increasing use of the internet to intimidate, threaten and smear.

Mr Kavanagh emphasised that officers did not want to become involved in “policing the distasteful or people being inappropriate” but insisted that enhanced powers were needed to allow intervention when crimes were committed. “We have to look for where clear crimes have taken place and that should be managed through the equivalent of police warrants which we ob- tain through the judiciary,” he said.

“The internet is a hugely witty broad set of opinions but that should not be blurred with the ability to buy drugs or guns, harass, share imagery without consent or, worse, engage in the industrialising of child abuse imagery.

“We need to do everything we can to remove that from the internet age, particularly for the younger generation. Hijacking their site, presenting tweets or images that they would never have allowed — sometimes it’s targeted abuse. It can’t be right to allow that to continue.”

On powers to access internet communications, Mr Kavanagh said critics were wrong to label the legislation a “Snoopers’ Charter” and insisted existing rules contained some of the “best regulation of police intrusive powers in the world”.

He said, however, that officers should be prepared to risk occasionally stepping beyond the limits of the law and added: “Police tend to be too cautious about how they can use those powers to protect the public.

“What we forget sometimes is the need for us to support victims feeling let down and isolated. If on occasions it goes beyond the boundaries of what the regulations or codes or the courts accept, then the police pull back.

“I have spoken to the regulatory bodies — surveillance, information, biometric commissioners — and it’s about working with those bodies to say that you can’t keep up — that your regulations and codes of practice cannot keep up with the nature and scale of crime that is taking place.”

Source: The Evening Standard

 

 

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