20 Sep 2013

Children blackmailed by paedophiles over online sex acts

Hundreds of British children are being blackmailed into performing sex acts or harming themselves via webcam, by paedophiles who threaten to send images of the victim to their family.

Teenagers and children as young as eight have been targeted and some driven to suicide by their abusers, said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) centre.

Paedophiles gain their trust by pretending to be the same age as the children they are targeting, and then lure them into carrying out sex acts online or sending sexual images.

They use the footage or images to blackmail their victims, and force them to perform more sex acts – treating them as their “slaves”, Ceop said – by threatening to pass on images shared to the victims’ family and friends.

Seven young people have committed suicide as a result of being targeted, including 17-year-old Daniel Perry from Dunfermline in Fife. He died on 15 July after being tricked into thinking he was talking to an American girl online. Another seven young people seriously self-harmed, of whom six were from the UK.

In the past two years across 12 investigations, 424 children worldwide have been blackmailed in this way, of whom 184 were from the UK, Ceop said. Experts believe thousands of British children could have been targeted by abusers intending to trap victims.


Ceop Deputy Chief Executive Andy Baker said: “Children as young as eight are being targeted, being blackmailed, being extorted, being forced, being coerced, to perform slave-like acts through the internet, on webcam.

“It is sexual and degrading. Some are being forced to cut themselves and write on their naked bodies. There has been an increase in children self-harming, seriously self-harming, and seven children in the last couple of years have taken their lives.”

He said that if a child commits suicide after this type of abuse, it could be treated as homicide.

Investigators believe that the paedophiles have geographically researched the areas where they wish to target victims. They say that British children may be targeted because of the accessibility of the English language and because foreign abusers believe the liberal nature of UK society makes it an easy target.

The NSPCC has set up a 24-hour dedicated helpline for anyone worried about this issue on 0800 328 0904. Calls can be made anonymously. Victims and their friends can also contact ChildLine in confidence on 0800 1111 or use the ClickCEOP button on the ceop.police.uk website to report any sexual abuse.

Operation K

The biggest case, code-named Operation K, involved 322 children who were blackmailed around the world, including 96 in the UK.

The victims, primarily boys aged 11 to 15, were targeted by a gang from an non-European country that Ceop would not name, and they are due to stand trial in the coming weeks.

They used more than 40 fake online profiles and more than 40 different email addresses to lure in their hundreds of victims.