Undercover Police: Hunting Paedophiles is an extraordinary documentary series that has gained exclusive access to some of the most secretive covert units working in modern day policing. The 1 x 90 mins and 2 x 60 min series has been made by BBC Studios Production’s The Documentary Unit and has been three years in the making.
Following a raft of high-profile vigilante ‘paedophile hunter’ stings the police rolled out a new strategy in 2017 across England and Wales to catch paedophiles online using undercover police officers.[i] The police teams featured have led the way in developing this tactic, which has seen hundreds of child sex offenders not previously known to police, identified and arrested.
The explosion in online child sexual abuse has only worsened during the pandemic with reports of obscene material more than doubling globally to more than four million in the first month of lockdown in 2020.[ii] In April of the same year, there were nearly nine million attempts in the UK to access child sexual abuse websites which had been previously blocked by the Internet Watch Foundation.[iii]
In the UK, 300,000 people are considered a threat to children either through physical ‘contact’ abuse or online. [iv] Investigators have found that online abuse images are so easily accessible they can be found on the open web in just three clicks. It is estimated that half a million men in the UK have viewed and used child abuse material.
Channel 4 Documentaries Senior Commissioning Editor, Alisa Pomeroy said: “This powerful series is both timely and vitally important. As a direct result of Covid, millions of children are now stuck at home, bored, hidden away in their bedrooms and chatting online. Each potentially laying themselves open to the sinister practice of online grooming by an increasing number of would-be sexual abusers.”
Joe Mather, Executive Producer, added: “This is a hard-hitting trio of documentaries filmed with great care and sensitivity over two years. It’s been extraordinary to have been granted access to such a complex area of policing and to witness the work of undercover detectives as they go about searching for paedophiles operating online. What the child sexual abuse officers are witness to on a daily basis is truly horrific yet these detectives, often with children of their own, have to engage with the offenders in order to find and arrest them, knowing that for every one they arrest there are countless more victims still at risk.”
Executive producers: Joe Mather and Simon Ford
Directors: Jamie Pickup and Mark Casebow
Production Company: BBC Studios
Senior Commissioning Editor: Alisa Pomeroy
Notes to Editor