Online Crime

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th April 2016.

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Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Conservative, Stevenage 12:00 am, 11th April 2016

What steps the Government are taking to tackle (a) criminal gangs and (b) paedophiles operating online.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

This Government have committed to spending £1.9 billion on cyber-security over the next five years, including for tackling cybercrime. Our response to online child sexual exploitation includes law enforcement agencies taking action against online offenders, finding and safeguarding victims, and working with the internet industry to remove illegal images.

Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Conservative, Stevenage

We await the new child sexual exploitation response unit, which will be established any day now. Can the Minister assure the House that the new unit will result in a step change, not just bringing abusers to justice, but working with parents, communities and schools to provide children with the skills, understanding and confidence to keep themselves safe online?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for the response unit, which will deliver significant benefits by assisting local areas experiencing particular issues and/or high volumes of child sexual exploitation cases, by offering a range of support, including advice from expert practitioners who have first-hand experience of tackling child sexual exploitation.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Labour, Stockport

Going missing can be an indicator that a child or young person is being exploited by organised gangs to traffic drugs across county lines. What more can be done to ensure that police forces work together and share information on missing children in order to combat the criminal exploitation of young people?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady, who has incredible expertise in this area, is absolutely right; we need police forces to take this seriously and recognise that a missing child is a child who is being exploited while they are missing. There is therefore a fantastic opportunity for intelligence gathering and safeguarding those children to stop them going missing in future.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office)

One of the proposed measures for tackling criminal gangs and paedophiles online is the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will start its line-by-line scrutiny tomorrow. One of the main concerns that we have outlined about the Bill as currently drafted is the proposed test that judges would undertake when considering applications for warrants to use the most intrusive powers, specifically the reference to judicial review. Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice and current Chief Surveillance Commissioner, told the Bill Committee in oral evidence just before Easter that judicial review was “not a sufficient test” to apply and that the Government should look at this again. Given that someone of his seniority who is held in such respect feels that the test is not good enough, will the Government reconsider the Bill’s wording in relation to judicial review?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. and learned Gentleman has great expertise in this area, but I am not sure that I necessarily agree with his comments. There is a double lock, and it is about necessity and proportionality, but he is right to make the point that the Bill is incredibly important when it comes to protecting children, as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children pointed out in oral evidence to the Committee considering the Policing and Crime Bill.