Over the last 10 years, digital crime has increasingly become a focus for the RCIPS. In particular the area of online child sexual exploitation, which unfortunately has become a growing concern worldwide – and the Cayman Islands is not immune. The #WeProtect Global Alliance describes online child sexual exploitation and abuse as one of the most urgent global issues of our generation.
Joanne Delaney, Intelligence Analyst with the RCIPS, works in this area and has 19 years’ experience in major crime investigations, in both the Cayman Islands and previously in the United Kingdom where she is from. Although Joanne has spent the majority of her career working in the police service, she is not a sworn officer, and is one of a number of civilian staff that hold important roles in the RCIPS working behind the scenes to support front line operations.
One of Joanne’s key roles is as the RCIPS liaison officer for international law enforcement and its partners who share information about online child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) concerning the Cayman Islands. In Cayman, the law defines that a ‘child’ is anyone who is under the age of 18 years.
One such law enforcement partner is The National Centre for Missing Exploited Children (NCMEC - https://www.missingkids.org/home) based in the USA. “NCMEC, is a clearing house for reports of online child sexual exploitation made by electronic service providers (ESP)”, says Joanne, “Where those reports relate to suspicious activity in the Cayman Islands, RCIPS receives these directly for further analysis”. The activity is then reviewed and graded by Joanne and her team, leading to police operations to search and seize the digital devices concerned and ultimately prosecute offenders.
Joanne and her team work closely with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and the RCIPS Digital Forensics Hub (DFH) on these cases. Where evidence of criminal content or activity in relation to online child sexual exploitation, is identified the suspect is arrested and a case is built on this evidence to submit a case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The DPP will then determine whether charges are to be brought against that suspect.
“The work can be tough – both mentally and emotionally challenging at times - viewing such child sexual exploitation material, but it’s vital we do it in order to both gather the evidence required to build a solid case to apprehend offenders, and help prevent potential/further harm to children and young people in the community, and around the world”, says Joanne. “Our colleagues in the RCIPS Digital Forensics Hub are an important part of the work we do. Often, we receive material that is encrypted or requires specialist technology or expertise to access it and decipher it. We are really fortunate to have this sort of expertise locally in Cayman within the Digital Forensics Hub (DFH).”
The RCIPS has had a number of recent successful prosecutions for offences involving online child sexual exploitation. Recent cases have included multiple charges for Possession of Indecent Images of Children, Possession of Child Pornography and Transmitting Child Pornography (S228A-C of the Penal Code), resulting in a variety of both custodial sentences and suspended sentences.
An important tool that the RCIPS use to support this work, is Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO). An SHPO can be imposed by the court on application by the police or any other relevant agency. It applies to any individual aged 16 or over convicted of an offence of a sexual or indecent nature. Applications are made where it is considered the individual poses a risk of sexual harm to either the general public or a certain group of people or individual person(s). The RCIPS have had some important success with SHPO’s with the first order issued in 2017. Conditions can include prohibition of any type of contact or communication (eg: in person or online) with children under 16, which if broken can result in four years imprisonment.
There are avenues for the public to report suspicious activity that they may come across unintendedly online. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a charity organisation based in the UK receives anonymous tips about websites containing child sexual abuse material, from members of the public from all over the world, including here in Cayman. RCIPS introduced the IWF anonymous reporting portal to the Cayman Islands back in 2016 - there is a link on the rcips.ky website homepage which directs to the portal: https://report.iwf.org.uk/ky. Anonymous reports directly from members of the Cayman Islands community about illegal online content have successfully resulted in this child sexual abuse material content being ‘taken down’ from the host countries.
“The public have an important role to play in alerting authorities - either reporting directly to the police or submitting a link to the content in question to independent third parties such as the IWF or NCMEC Cybertipline: report.cybertip.org”, says Joanne. “Either way, alerting the authorities is vital, as the content can then be analysed and if identified to be child sexual abuse material, can be pulled from the internet”
“Although we can contribute to international efforts to take down illegal content, that’s not to say that we don’t also gather intelligence from local sources, and individuals within the community too”, says Joanne. “There are occasions when individuals receive child sexual abuse material, shared with them by a third party – for example via message sharing platforms like Whatsapp.
If you receive such material, please report this to RCIPS and do not share or send these images/videos any further. Sharing content not only further exposes and endangers the victim, but sending (transmitting) such material is an offence. By alerting the RCIPS they can handle this material in the correct way and advise on how to remove it from your device.
Although apprehending offenders is vital in order to stop and help prevent further harm to children in the community, the police along with agency partners, have a role to play to educate young people and parents about how to be safe online. There are occasions where it is identified that children are ‘sexting’ and sharing self-generated content, when such instances arise, the police support the child and family with education.
“We are called upon for all sorts of tasks to support front line efforts and investigations. The work, although definitely not for everyone, can be extremely satisfying when it helps secure a conviction, particularly when the result ensures the safety of children in the community”.
The RCIPS encourages anyone that might come across harmful or dangerous content online, or knows of someone that is accessing this type of content, to do the right thing and report it to the police – please don’t share it. The RCIPS has the expertise and tools to analyse and respond appropriately, and where necessary build a case to apprehend offenders.
Resources for educators, parents and young people:
- The National Crime Agency Educational Resources: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
- #WeProtect Global Alliance: www.weprotect.org
- Internet Watch Foundation: www.iwf.org.uk
RCIPS Hosts Caribbean British Overseas Territories for Digital Forensics Course Focused on Online Child Sexual Exploitation, 17 May
In March this year, the RCIPS hosted a three-day course, funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), delivered by two digital forensics experts from UK College of Policing, to train and accredit attendees on the UK standards of grading of Indecent Images of Children (IIOC). In the area of online child sexual exploitation, grading is a vital tool to distinguish whether the threshold is met for a criminal offence, enabling the police to further investigate offenders found in possession of these assets.
Attendees from the six Caribbean British Overseas Territories (CBOT) were represented, including; two delegates from the British Virgin Islands, two from Turks and Caicos Islands, two from Bermuda, two from Montserrat, one from Anguilla and three from the Cayman Islands (RCIPS). With a focus on ‘Training the Trainer’, the course equipped attendees with the skills to deliver training to colleagues back in their territories, enabling growth and development within this specialist area of police work.
RCIPS attendees, including Intelligence Analyst Joanne Delaney and Jo Payne from the Digital Forensic Hub, shared case studies and learnings with the wider group. And Andre Savoury, an investigator with the RCIPS Family Support Unit, talked to the challenges faced in evidence gathering, arrest approaches, risk assessments and the impact on victims, witnesses and investigators.
Hosting the training in Cayman enabled the RCIPS to demonstrate their advanced Digital Forensic Hub facilities and share opportunities to support their overseas territory colleagues with digital analysis efforts, such as interrogation of seized phones and computers. Bermuda also highlighted their new facilities and opportunities for greater engagement across the region.
“The UK trainers provided a wealth of experience in IIOC case work in addition to skills in the use of Digital Forensics, including how to prepare and present the strongest case for any subsequent prosecution, and different approaches to Victim Identification”, says Mr Fulton. “In addition to offering accreditation and equipping attendees with the tools to train their own back home, attendees now have an established network across the CBOT’s to share good practice, and support each other in this evolving area of police work.”
Regional best practice workshops will be held quarterly to maintain the network forged between attendees and offer ongoing development opportunities.