Clare Moody, Labour’s candidate in the May 2nd Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) election, is calling for more resources to be directed at the growing problem of online child abuse in the area.

On Tuesday 9th April at 19:30, Ms Moody — a former MEP for the South West — will be attending a public meeting at Long Ashton Village Hall. The event is open to all interested in discussing Clare’s plans for Avon and Somerset Constabulary, the Labour Party’s mission to ‘take back our streets’, and how you can help Labour’s campaigns for the upcoming PCC and general elections. RSVP here.

Ms Moody’s call for more resources to tackle online child abuse follows concerns raised by students at a recent Safer Internet Day event hosted by Weston College to discuss issues such as online bullying, fraud, and exploitation.

It also follows on from a top-level report which revealed shortcomings in the Avon and Somerset force’s approach to tackling offenders accessing indecent images of children. The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report, published a year ago, urged the force to be proactive in the use of warrants to secure entry and the arrest of suspects to add “a further level of protection to potential victims.”

Senior officers told a public scrutiny meeting last week that the internet child abuse team had been boosted in response to the report, with additional staff and changed working practices.

However, Ms Moody warns that much more needs to be done to ensure the problems are tackled properly. Figures presented to the meeting show internet crime in the area is rising rapidly and staffing and funding must be increased to keep pace with this.

“It’s a year since the HM Inspectorate report was published and only now does the current Conservative PCC, Mark Shelford, appear to show any interest in it, despite being the national PCC lead for digital and cyber crime,” she said. “What’s taken him so long?”

“Young people at the Weston College Safer Internet Day event raised very real fears about their images being used without their consent and the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to manipulate those images.”

“Ensuring that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is set up to deal effectively with internet crime and online safety will be a priority of mine if elected PCC in May, especially as women and girls are so vulnerable to this appalling abuse,” she added.

“Sadly, under the Tories, the Avon and Somerset force has been particularly hard hit by funding shortfalls and even now there are warnings of further cuts in frontline services, despite local people having to pay millions more,” she pointed out. “In contrast, Labour’s mission to ‘take back our streets’ involves clear and positive plans to restore community policing after years of criminal neglect by the Tories.”

‘Take back our streets’ is one of Labour’s five missions for government. Labour has a plan to: tackle crime and anti-social behaviour; tackle violence against women and girls; give young people the best start in life to prevent crime; and rebuild public confidence in policing and the criminal justice system.

RSVP for the public meeting here.

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