CEOP Says Shake-Up Will Harm Child Safety

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CEOP’s Jim Gamble has slammed government plans to roll the child protection agency into the NCA

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), has said government plans to roll CEOP into the National Crime Agency will not benefit children.

Speaking to a committee at the House of Commons today, Gamble defended his decision to resign from CEOP, saying that  no consultation had taken place prior to the government’s announcement of the proposed assimilation, and said that governance of CEOP must remain independent in order for it to continue to be productive. The priority of CEOP was to ensure that “the child remains at the centre” he said.

Protecting children first

CEOP was created in 2006 to track down online paedophiles and bring them to court. According to Gamble, CEOP has to date safeguarded 762 children and been responsible for the arrest of 1,338 offenders. The agency has more than 50,000 volunteers responsible for conveying its information to schools, and has engaged with 6.671 million children since its launch. “That is big society, it’s social return,” said Gamble.

In becoming part of the NCA, he said, the issue of child protection would be “fighting for airtime” with other high-priority issues such as terrorism and organised crime. “When it comes to categorising and prioritising, children do not come high up that list.”

“Is this about saving children or saving face?” asked Gamble. “We’re no more related to organised crime than organised crime is related to domestic violence.”

He suggested that it would be more appropriate to affiliate CEOP with an organisation that focuses primarily on children. “If you don’t want to make CEOP independent move it under the Department of Education,” he said. “Make sure that the child remains at the centre.”

His words echo those of his colleague Alex Nagle, CEOP’s head of streategy, partnerships and governance, who suggested that the agency’s absorption into the NCA would result in CEOP effectively becoming “the poor relation”.

Speaking at a Westminster eForum meeting entitled “Taming the wild web – building a safer cyberspace”, Nagle said that, faced with a large-scale terrorist attack, the NCA would inevitably end up diverting resources away from other areas of business to tackle the problem.

“That’s entirely understandable,” said Nagle. “But as an independent organisation we will be able to resist that, and ensure that our resources are firmly focused around child protection.”

CEOP’s ‘tremendous’ work

Discussions between CEOP and the government are still ongoing, and no final decisions have been made. According to Nagle, “In the meantime it is business as usual.” Meanwhile, Gamble has confirmed that he will remain in his position as chief executive of the organisation for another four months, while negotiations are in progress.

Earlier this year, CEOP lobbied Facebook to place a “panic button” on the social network for threatened children to use if they thought a paedophile might be pestering them online. Despite initially resisting the idea, Facebook finally reached a compromise with CEOP, stating that both organisations were “aligned on making the Internet safer.”

Following last week’s news of Gamble’s resignation, Labour shadow home secretary Alan Johnson praised the agency for its “tremendous” work. “The government’s plans will harm child safety networks. Their lack of consultation has led to the resignation of Mr Gamble who is highly respected within and outside of the organisation he served so well,” said Johnson

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