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Safeguarding Week 2019 – Protecting children online

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It's the final day of Safeguarding Week 2019 and throughout the week we've been looking behind the scenes, talking to some of the people who work at the forefront of safeguarding.

Safeguarding Week 2019 – Protecting children online

Today we hear from Detective Inspector Darrin Knight, who is responsible for our Digital Forensic Unit. Darrin and his team investigate cases involving the possession and distribution of indecent images of children, online grooming and online child sexual exploitation.

“I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1989, transferred to North Yorkshire in 1996 and became a Detective Constable with Whitby CID in 1998. I went on to become a Detective Sergeant at Scarborough CID and then a Detective Inspector in Northallerton before, taking charge of the Digital Forensic Unit (DFU) three years ago.

“Over the last few years, there has since been a huge amount of investment in the DFU department, so much so there’s now 56 staff – a mixture of police officers and staff spread across the force – dedicated to online investigations.

“I have digital forensic investigators and mobile phone examiners within the DFU, detectives within the Cyber Crime unit, digital media investigators, intelligence management officers and detectives within the Online Abuse team, as well as technical support staff.
“About 80 per cent of our work involves the possession and distribution of indecent images of children, as well as grooming or arranging to meet a child and engaging in sexual activity with a child over the internet.

“Detectives in the Online Abuse team are based at Scarborough, Harrogate, Northallerton and York, so we can provide a service to all commands. We have a mobile lab which can attend crime scenes with technical staff and conduct device examinations there and then, with a view to swiftly safeguarding any vulnerable victims identified.

“We have dedicated victim identification officers and for me, this is by far the most rewarding part of the job. Using a vast array of forensic tools and investigative techniques, staff can identify child victims who finds themselves without a voice.

“Many of our victims have been rescued from a life of abuse and whilst it’s good to prosecute offenders and see them appropriately punished for their crimes, we view it as a victory to know children are no longer at risk because of our work.

“The majority of our challenges come from technological advances, devices (hardware and software) change constantly, for example encryption can be very difficult to crack. Once we find a way through, another wall is built to prevent us from obtaining evidence. It is a matter of us constantly playing catch up with developers and engineers. But we are determined to succeed.

“The work we undertake goes mostly unseen by the public, but these types offences represents a significant danger to our community and it’s most vulnerable members. Offenders use the internet to come into the lives of our children, through their phone, their computer and even their games console, and irreparable damage can be caused if not caught in time. That’s why for me personally, the work we undertake is vital and successfully safeguarding vulnerable children is incredibly rewarding.”

Last modified: June 28, 2019