The former RUC Special Branch chief who now heads a national child sex abuse police unit has hit out at having to spend |thousands of pounds on buying valuable information from internet firms.
According to the BBC, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has spent more than £170,000 on gathering internet data since it was founded in 2006.
The sum, which has gone to |internet service providers (ISPs) which charge for their information, was revealed through a Freedom of Information request made by the broadcaster.
Bangor-born CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble said that having to pay such sums was “ridiculous”.
“The information that internet service providers hold is critically important to us,” he told the BBC.
The protection unit says one of the methods abusers use to target victims is luring them through internet forums such as chatrooms and message boards.
Mr Gamble said he had no |objections to paying for information when investigating “ordinary” criminal activity.
But, he argue, it was unacceptable when trying to prevent children being harmed through an online area operated by the ISPs. He told the BBC: “Where it’s an |ordinary criminal offence, then we need to pay. If we are diverting them from their core business we need to recompense them for that. Their core business is the online environment, and where customers coming to that area commit a crime, it’s ridiculous that we have to pay to investigate that.”
CEOP has had to pay £171,505 for data since it was set up in 2006. ISPs can legally charge for information they provide.
Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Service Providers’ Association, said it was not a money-making issue.
He told the BBC: “ISPs charge a certain amount to recover costs, this is not about making money. Many companies don’t actually make those charges.”