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The government is setting up a new agency specifically to target paedophiles who use the internet to share child porn, and to "groom" children.

The Centre for Child Protection on the Internet, announced as part of the government's digital strategy for Britain, will work to support existing child protection agencies. It will be staffed by specialist police officers as well as child protection and internet industry experts.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said that online abuse, by its nature, crossed traditional police boundaries, and needs to be dealt with at a national level. He described the centre as the next step towards closer co-operation between law enforcement, the industry and children's charities to stamp out online child abuse.

As well as being a single point of contact for anyone to report online child abuse, the centre will offer advice to victims, and potential victims of abuse, and their families; and coordinate sharing of intelligence on sex offenders, both nationally and internationally.

NSPCC director of services for children and young people Wes Cuell observed that the internet had provided a new, and very successful, channel for paedophiles to distribute child pornography, putting children at greater risk than ever before.

"Placing the new Centre within SOCA puts online child abuse as a national police priority for the first time and sends out a strong message that the internet is no longer a market place for abusive images of children," he added.

The new centre will be attached to the fledgling Serious Organised Crime Agency. Both will be operational by April 2006.®

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