Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that forces across the UK will have access to new tools which will speed up investigations of online child abuse and limit the number of indecent images of children (IIOC) police officers have to view in the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID).
The database enables UK law enforcement to work collaboratively to safeguard vulnerable children and bring more offenders to justice.
A fast-forensic tool to rapidly analyse seized devices and find images already known to law enforcement will be introduced. This will allow a 1TB hard drive to be searched in just 30 minutes, when previously it would have taken 24 hours.
An image-categorisation algorithm will assist officers in identifying and categorising the severity of illegal imagery.
Indecent images of children are graded from C to A (the most serious), with officers currently working through up to 200 an hour. The new tool will pre-sort the images – up to 2,000 per hour – and should reduce the exposure of officers to the images, thereby lowering the psychological impact.
Finally, a capability to detect images with matching scenes will help to identify children in indecent images in order to safeguard victims.
The technology cost £1.76m and will be initially introduced in trials. Police forces across the UK and the National Crime Agency will have access to the new tools.
“Vile predators who are creating, viewing or sharing indecent imagery of children are constantly adapting their tactics to evade capture,” Javid said.
“We must move at the same pace and evolve to ensure we catch these paedophiles, bring them to justice and protect vulnerable victims. This game-changing tech will help us do this and will be vital in the fight against online child abusers.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, chief constable Simon Bailey said: “There have been year-on-year increases in reports of people accessing indecent images of children and as a service we are searching more properties, arresting more suspects and safeguarding more children than ever before.
“The improvements to the Child Abuse Image Database will enable us to catch more offenders, rescue more children from harm and reduce the pressure and trauma on our officers from having to review every image manually.
“Accessing indecent imagery of children is not a victimless crime. The images depict the worst possible forms of child abuse and those who access them create a market for further images to be produced.”
The tools were developed in partnership between the CAID Innovation Lab and UK-based companies Qumodo, Vigil AI and Cyan Forensics.
Since it was introduced in December 2014, the Government has invested £18.2m in the CAID programme. CAID currently holds 13 million images, with this number growing by approximately 500,000 every two months.