PN120107ST

Embargo: Immediate Friday 12 January 2006

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

BETTER EDUCATION AND MAKING CHILD PROTECTION A NATIONAL POLICING PRIORITY VITAL TO PROTECT KIDS ONLINE, LORDS TOLD

The House of Lords Committee investigating personal Internet security were this week told that child protection should be made a priority in the National Policing Plan and Internet safety should become a key component of the National Curriculum in order to better educate children.

The recommendation was made by Jim Gamble, Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre in evidence he gave to the Committee on Wednesday this week. Mr Gamble also recommended that local authorities should have designated posts to co-ordinate Internet safety across children's services and that more should be done to encourage the use of blocking software to protect children.

Mr Gamble told the Committee:

"I would like to see this Committee ask that child protection be a national policing priority in the National Policing Plan, and the fact that it is not is a significant problem and I do not know why it is not."

Commenting on the level of Internet safety education in schools Mr Gamble, said:

"I think longer term one of the key recommendations ...must be that this type of safety message is embedded in the National Curriculum, and not just under information technology, because it is about social responsibility."

Mr Gamble, who gave evidence together with Tim Wright of the Home Office, was asked whether new laws were needed to protect children online or if existing powers were adequate. The witnesses argued that in general existing laws were capable of protecting children although they did pick out some areas where further legislation might be needed.

Mr Gamble said:

"You might want to consider for example as a question, is it right that as a 47 year old man I can go onto the Internet tonight pose as a 14 year old to talk to a girl who is 13? Forget about sexual intent, is it right that I should be able to do that? Why would any 47 year old man ever want to engage with a 13-year old girl whilst masquerading as a 14-year old boy? I think without lawful authority or reason you should not be allowed to do that."

Mr Wright suggested some new areas where the Home Office were considering further legislation:

"The Home Secretary is currently consulting Cabinet colleagues about whether to ban the possession of computer-generated images of child abuse, including cartoons and other graphic illustrations of children being abused....at the moment the possession of real images is illegal but the possession of computer-generated images is not illegal."

In a second evidence session the Committee heard from John Carr, Executive Secretary of the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Security. He made clear the extent of the problem of children accidentally viewing inappropriate content online:

"57% of youngsters between the ages of 9 and 19 who were regular users of the Internet had come into contact with on-line pornography and 38% of those has seen it as a result of pop-ups that had appeared on their screens, so again unsolicited, unsought, unlooked for, 36% had found it accidentally and 25% had seen these types of images as a result of opening up spam, unsolicited email, which they had received."

Notes to Editors

1. The full transcript of the evidence session can be found online at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_t_select/Evidence1.cfm

2. The full details of the inquiry into personal Internet security are available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_t_select/internet.cfm

3. The Committee next evidence session will be held on Wednesday 17 January at 3.40pm in Committee room 3 of the House of Lords. Evidence will be heard from Jerry Fishenden and Matt Lambert of Microsoft.

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