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Peter Davies, head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), said there was now a "class of child abusers very proficient in technology" who are consistently trying to evade authorities by finding new means of accessing children.
Speaking to Daybreak, he said: "The old model, with a view of meeting online with a view to meeting offline and then physical abuse taking place is actually a diminishing, these days sexual abuse of children can take place purely online."
Javed Khan, chief executive of independent charity Victim Support, has said that police forces in the UK need to improve their reporting of child abuse crimes in order to build up a more accurate national picture:
Every year the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) produces an assessment of child abuse.
Here are some of the findings relating to the UK from the latest report:
- 8,000 reports of indecent images of children being shared in 2012
- 70,000 images and videos shared - a two-fold increase on 2011
- 20,000 daily users of encrypted forums by end of 2013 (not all for child abuse purposes)
- 70% increase in the number of female victims under the age of 10 over three years to December 2012
Child sexual abuse streamed live over the internet on services like Skype has been flagged as an emerging threat by experts.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) - the police division charged with tackling child abuse - reports that it has seen in increase in this type of activity in 2012.
In its annual threat assessment of child sexual exploitation and abuse, Ceop said that offenders tend to target vulnerable families overseas to set up live access to children over webcams in exchange for payment.
Often these families are in developing countries in areas with extreme poverty, rising levels of access to the internet and poor child protection policies, the report said.