More than 200 prosecutions over child sexual abuse imagery since 2017

The Child at Risk in Ireland Foundation is concerned child sexual abuse has increased during the coronavirus crisis. File photograph

More than 200 people have been prosecuted in relation to child sexual abuse imagery over the past three years.

According to Freedom of Information files, the Director of Public Prosecutions successfully prosecuted 69 people in 2017, and 68 in both 2018 and 2019.

Eve Farrelly, executive director of the Child at Risk in Ireland Foundation, said she was concerned child sexual abuse has increased during the coronavirus crisis.

“We know during this time children have been locked in their homes and have ahad a much more online presence. And we also know that offenders were also locked in their homes, bored and had a much higher online presence.

“I think we’re not really seeing the impact of that just yet and that would be of huge concern for me.”

Last month, Garda commissioner Drew Harris warned of a “startling and shocking” increase in referrals of online child abuse material during the lockdown.

He said the number of notifications to gardaí had increased by 26 per cent between March 1st and May 31st this year.

Speaking at the Policing Authority, he indicated there would be an increase in resources to the dedicated garda units tasked with combating this crime.

“We have further investments we want to make in our online child exploitation unit, which is part of the National Protective Services Bureau, and also our Cyber Crime Bureau - it’s a recognition of the amount of child abuse imagery online.

“One of the startling and shocking statistics, for the period this year March 1st to May 31st, is we’ve seen a 26 per cent increase in notifications on child sexual abuse material on social media platforms.”

He added: “That’s a shocking statistic and it’s also born out internationally as well. Ireland is not unique in this; this is a time of considerable risk for children.”