A lack of staff at the government's Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre led to vital information on paedophile doctor Myles Bradbury not being passed to police in time, a former Detective Sergeant with CEOP told ITV News.
Katy Milne QPM was in charge of major investigations when Bradbury's name was passed from Toronto Police via Interpol as part of a major investigation - called Operation Spade - into paedophile suspects buying online images of abuse from inside the UK.
Speaking exclusively to ITV News in her first interview since leaving post she admitted mistakes were made, but said she simply did not have enough staff to cope with the unprecedented amount of images they were processing.
Asked by ITV News if the failures by authorities could be repeated, she said regretfully, yes, as CEOP is simply not being resourced well enough: There are not enough expert staff, and child protection is not being prioritised within the National Crime Agency.
Watch Romilly Weeks' report:
The Independent Police Complaints Commission are currently investigating why CEOP failed to act on information given to them by authorities in Canada.
CEOP received the names of more than 700 people who had bought indecent images online Canadian authorities in July 2012. CEOP did not pass on the information to police, and so police then did not alert Addenbrooke hospital in Cambridge to the threat posed by their pediatric consultant, who then went on to sexually abuse 18 boys in his care.
Between 2011 and 2012, when the names from the Canadian authorities came in, CEOP recieved a total of 16,550 reports - an average of 1,300 per month.
Compared to the volume of reports received two years before that, this represented an 263% increase in volume.
At the same time, CEOP was undergoing the serious cuts imposed by the government's austerity measures - and having its budget cut by 10%.
CEOP's director Johnny Gwynne told ITV News the organisation is 'stronger, more efficient and more able' than before.
Former Detective Milne told ITV News that CEOP needed to be resourced properly in order to work, and that failure to do so is putting children at increasing risk of sex offenders.
Emma Howard, a former social worker with the NSPCC employed by CEOP, said if they had known Bradbury was a doctor with access to children, then he would have been prioritised differently - instead because the images themselves were deemed not to be the most explicit the categorization was incorrect.
ITV News have contacted police forces around the country to understand the scale of police work the Canadian information has had. Of the 32 police forces that provided information to ITV News:
- 948 referrals have been made from Operation Spade.
- 56 people have been charged.
- 183 referrals are still being investigation.
- 10 prosecutions have been made.
The former CEOP staff told ITV News that since the National Crime Agency has taken over the running of CEOP, they have not prioritised child protection, and the cuts made by the government have left children, like the 18 gravely ill children abused by Myles Bradbury, vulnerable to sexual predators across the UK.