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Major initiative launched in global fight against abuse of kids on-line.



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Senator the Hon Chris Ellison Minister for Justice and Customs

27 January 2005

Major initiative launched in global fight against abuse of kids on-line

Children all over the world will be better protected from on-line sexual deviants following the launch of a powerful international policing initiative, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.

Welcoming a landmark on-line alliance between law enforcement agencies from Australia, the UK, USA and Canada, Senator Ellison said the new Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) website aims to be a “one stop shop” for all information about child protection on-line.

“The website will act as a gateway to information on how to use the internet safely, and will provide instant links to a range of law enforcement and support agencies that can advise and help victims of abuse,” Senator Ellison said.

“The site will also facilitate the ability of internet users to report on-line child abuse in a secure and confidential environment.

“The initiative also sends out a clear message to those who use the internet to search for and share images of child abuse, or approach children to ‘groom’ them for sexual abuse, that law enforcement is active on-line and that the internet is not an anonymous place,” he said.

The VGT is an initiative of the Australian High-Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the UK National Crime Squad (NCS), the US Department of Homeland Security and Interpol in Europe.

Senator Ellison expressed the appreciation of the Australian government for the cooperation of the international law enforcement agencies.

“Australia is absolutely committed to playing a leading role in the fight against the abuse of children around the world,” Senator Ellison said.

Senator Ellison urged all parents who have children to log on to www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com to get important information about how to protect their kids from on-line predators.

The Federal government last year introduced tough new laws providing severe sanctions for odious sex crimes against children perpetrated via the Internet, including:

• Use of the Internet to access, transmit or make available child pornography and child abuse material (penalty: up to ten years jail), and • Use of the Internet to “groom” or procure children with the intent of engaging in sexual activity with them (penalty: up to 15 years jail).

The Federal government is also providing $35.2 million to protect Australian families and children from sex criminals, through measures including:

• The new Australian Federal police (AFP) On-line Sexual Exploitation Team (OCSET) will soon become fully operational, providing the AFP with a national assessment and co-ordination capability for international and national referrals of child pornography.

• Monitoring by the AFP Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (TCCC) of international travel of prior sex offenders; • Provision of $2 million for a National Cybersafe Programme which will allow Internet advocacy group NetAlert to run a two-year community road show,

and

• The AFP will receive a further $1.7 million to run education and prevention community programmes.

Australia’s largest-ever on-line child pornography investigation, Operation Auxin, also continues to garner results with the execution of 503 search warrants resulting in the arrest/summons of 250 people across the country and the laying of 2279 charges to date.

Virtual Global Taskforce Background

Initiated in December 2003, the mission of the VGT is:

• to make the internet a safer place; • to identify, locate and help children at risk; and • to hold perpetrators appropriately to account.

The VGT is also presently undertaking other important initiatives in the fight against on-line child abuse including Operation PIN which involves the creation of a website that purports to contain images of child abuse but which, in fact, is a law enforcement site.

Operation PIN is designed as a crime reduction initiative and its success has been in undermining the confidence of those who think that the internet is an anonymous place where paedophiles and other criminals can operate without fear of being caught.

In the future, the Australian High-Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) will be leading an initiative to provide a 24/7 on-line presence, which involves an officer at a PC overtly

visiting a chat room in much the same way that he or she would walk through a shopping mall, street, park or any other public place.

Officers in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US will each perform “shifts” to ensure that the presence is truly 24/7.

The website can be found at: www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com

Media inquiries: Brad Burke (02) 6277 7260/(0417) 749 711