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CEOP to retain ops control under National Crime Agency

UK.gov says 'vital work' will continue, despite criticism

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The government, in an effort to allay criticism about its decision to fold the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) into a new National Crime Agency along with other bodies, confirmed today that the agency would retain operational control.

In October last year, the organisation's then-CEO Jim Gamble resigned from his post in a row with the Home Secretary over the future of his CEOP.

Gamble, who at the time was Britain's most senior anti-paedophile policeman, told MPs that he quit because he believed that a proposed new structure would put children at risk.

Today the government said CEOP would retain its name and "unique brand as the national centre for child protection".

In addition to overseeing operational control, the government said CEOP would maintain a separate budget, and continue to have a governance structure, allowing CEOP to work closely with the private sector and charities.

"Child protection is an absolute priority for this government. As a core part of the new National Crime Agency, CEOP will not only be in the best possible position to continue its vital work but will also benefit from being able to draw on the resources and support available across the whole agency," said Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire.

"CEOP has been an amazing success and this government will always back its vital work," he said.

The previous Labour government had proposed that CEOP be granted independence under Gamble.

In October 2010, Gamble criticised the government's decision to roll CEOP into the National Crime Agency, describing the move as "arbitrary". He argued that CEOP's focus on child victims was bound to switch to offenders as part of a large crime-fighting organisation.

"It's about ensuring the appropriate governance so we're continually focused on what's best for children and not fighting for airtime amongst drugs, counter-terrorism, organised crime, guns and gangs," said Gamble.

"Pushing us into a National Crime Agency where the culture will invariably be different is not going to be best for children."

CEOP's current boss, Peter Davies, welcomed the announcement and said he had been given an appropriate "mandate" to build on the agency's success.

It's unclear how the budget will be carved up under the National Crime Agency. CEOP's annual budget had stood at £12.5m, two-thirds of which came from taxpayers, with the remainder from commercial partners such as Microsoft, on a philanthropic basis.

Gamble had claimed that Microsoft stated it was "extremely unlikely" to maintain its support under the new structure. ®

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