The NSPCC has called for an urgent crackdown on computer owners who indulge in the sick trade of child sex abuse images after 46 people in Northamptonshire were prosecuted last year.
The child protection charity revealed today 26 million images were confiscated in the last two years while the number of people across the country prosecuted for making, possessing and distributing indecent images has rocketed by 1,700 per cent since 1995.
The staggering total of confiscated images comes from just five of 43 police forces in England and Wales which were able to check their records. A sixth force said it had records of more than 10 million images going back a number of years.
The figures are in stark contrast to 1990, before the internet became popular, when the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 hard copy images in circulation in the UK. Now, at least five times that are being confiscated every day.
They are graded on the Oliver scale from level one, the lowest kind of seriousness, to category five, which involves sadism and bestiality.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, Northamptonshire Police was not able to provide a breakdown of the number of images discovered, but did reveal that last year it arrested 46 people for taking, possessing or distributing indecent images of children.
The county force’s policy stops an investigation once a suspect’s computer 400 level four images have been found on a suspect’s computer.
Often, the computer holds hundreds, if not thousands, of images showing children being subjected to violent, sexual abuse.
Since 1995, the number of people convicted in England and Wales has risen more than 1,700 per cent from 85 to 1,495 last year.
There have been several court cases involving huge amounts of indecent images of children. In December, a 38-year old man from Northampton was jailed for 18 months for eight counts of possession indecent images and sexual assault.
And on Friday, businessman Mark Rogers, 54, of Rushmere, Northampton was jailed for 23 months for downloading and distributing images.
Fiona Richards, NSPCC regional head of service for the East Midlands, said: “The number of these dreadful images is absolutely appalling.
“The truly awful thing is that more and more children are being abused so these pictures can be produced and once in circulation they may stay there for many years. If we can halt this vile trade, we will be saving countless children from suffering sexual assaults.
“The authorities are working hard to clamp down on this but there are still far too many pictures available. It’s time the government and industry got together to this corrosive problem.”