5 Dec 2012

NZ children exploited for online pornography

3:12 pm on 5 December 2012

Twenty-six New Zealand children have been exploited for online pornography in the past four years and some of the material has been sold or distributed by criminal networks.

Figures obtained by Radio New Zealand show 11 people have been caught taking pictures or videos of children since police set up a special unit in 2008 to target online child exploitation. Some of the offenders had multiple victims.

The figures, released under the Official Information Act, reveal that of the 26 girls and boys, four were exploited by criminals based in Italy, United States, Finland and Canada where images of the victims were uncovered during overseas operations.

The head of the police online child exploitation unit, Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael, said that in some cases offenders were working in crime rings.

He said criminals pose as children on the internet to find victims.

Police have rescued 61 New Zealand children from potential sexual abuse since the unit was set up and four identified in pictures have been placed in protection.

Alan Bell of child advocacy group ECPAT Child Alert told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme that police and Department of Internal Affairs cannot solve the problem on their own.

It really needs buy-in from the whole community to protect our children," he said. "It's not to scare-monger, but it's just common sense, looking out for danger signals."

Mr Bell says children need to be made aware of the dangers online.