Internet Child Abuse Investigation Team (ICAT)
Hampshire Constabulary’s Internet Child Abuse Investigation Team (ICAT) deals with online complex investigations into the alleged sexual abuse of children. The ICAT work on cases involving the distribution of indecent images of children and/or networks of paedophiles, possession of indecent images of children and developing intelligence packages from other national or international law enforcement agencies. The majority of intelligence packages that are received into the ICAT are via the National Crime Agency Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) department.
The team also has a dedicated Victim Identification Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who specialises in identifying child victims in first generation images and has access to the national Child Abuse Image Database (CAID). The ICAT can also offer support on investigations to detectives investigating offences involving online vigilante groups identifying suspects for grooming and incitement offences.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP)
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) was set up to keep children safe from sexual abuse and online grooming and is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and works both nationally and international to bring online child sex offenders, including those involved in production, distribution and viewing of child abuse material, to justice.
‘Paedophile hunters’ (OCAGs)
Whilst we understand the concerns people have in relation to the safety of their children online and the desire to protect them, we do not endorse these groups because the police are best placed to deal with people alleged to be involved in online grooming of children.
There are a number of concerns with the way these groups work. They are not targeted to high priority cases and so divert police resources, the evidence they provide is often not strong enough for court, and they do not provide any protection for victims. Their practices can also put offenders and innocent families at risk from attack and harassment.
However, while police will not work with these groups, we have a responsibility to investigate evidence presented to us, if it suspected a serious crime has been committed, regardless of where that evidence comes from.
The increase in these groups is symptomatic of the increasing scale of child sexual abuse that police are dealing with. It reinforces the need for technology companies to do more to prevent offenders using their platforms to prey on children and for children and parents to be educated about healthy relationships and staying safe online.
If you want to support policing and contribute to our efforts to protect children, there are many ways you can get involved with your local force – visit www.citizensinpolicing.net for more information. If you have information about children at risk you can contact Crimestoppers or call 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.