Phoenix Foundation “disgusted” and a government chief officer resigns over decision to disband child protection agency
The government’s plan to assimilate the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) into the National Crime Agency (NCA) has resulted in the resignation of CEOP’s chief executive and condemnation from child protection advocates.
CEOP was created in 2006 to track down online paedophiles and bringing them to court. The data collected by the agency will now be combined with the NCA and child protection activists fear that the clampdown on offenders will lose emphasis.
The agency was responsible for raising issues about child protection that led to Facebook placing a “panic button” app on the site for threatened children to use if they thought a paedophile might be pestering them online.
Despite praising its good work, the agency has been dubbed by Home Secretary Theresa May as a quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation) and therefore a cost-cutting target for the coalition government. “The government recognises the importance of child protection and wants to build upon the work of CEOP, but does not necessarily feel this is best done by creating a new quango,” May said.
CEOP released a statement in which it criticised May for not listening to objections regarding the merging of the two departments. It said: “This direction of travel does not seem to have changed and CEOP’s chief executive, Jim Gamble, has therefore today offered his resignation to the Home Secretary with a four month notice period.”
Sara Payne, Shy Keenan and Fiona Crook of The Phoenix Chief Advocates described Gamble’s resignation as a “devastating blow” for child protection in the UK.
“We cannot begin to describe how disgusted we are with our own government for betraying him and for betraying all of our children,” their statement said. “This cannot be allowed to happen; we must stand up and fight. We must do what is right for the protection of our children against the crimes of paedophiles.”
Alan Johnson, the Labour Shadow Home Secretary, said that the agency was gaining an international reputation for its “tremendous” work. He said: “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.”
Keenan, representing Phoenix in an interview with the BBC, said, “We need an independent child protection force that is focused only on child protection – not soaked into a massive team where [it] has to fight every single day for funding to do what actually has to be done and needs to be done.”