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The number of child sex abuse image investigations jumped 25% last year

The number of new cases handled by the Garda cyber crime bureau last year increased to 490.

Image: Shutterstock

THE NUMBER OF new child sexual abuse image investigations opened by the Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau (GNCCB) last year increased by 25% to 212.

That is according to new figures provided by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD (FG) which show that the overall number of new cases handled by the Garda cyber crime bureau last year increased to 490.

The number of cases closed last year by the Garda cyber crime unit saw a sharp increase rising by 29% from 333 to 431 and the increase is due the number of court sittings increasing last year over 2020 when Covid-19 restrictions had a much greater impact on court business.

The GNCCB work in the area of child sexual abuse image cases accounts for the largest proportion of its work.

The 212 child sexual abuse images cases accounted for 43% of its new work in 2021.

The 212 child sexual abuse images cases followed 170 in 2021 and already this year, the GNCCB has handled 59 new child sexual abuse images investigations.

In a written Dail response to Sorca Clarke TD (SF), Minister McEntee confirmed that the child exploitation/grooming cases investigated by the GNCCB last year increased by 32% from 34% to 45% while the number of new child exploitation/grooming investigations this year is 13.

After child sexual abuse images, the next largest area that the GNCCB dealt with was theft and fraud reflecting the increasing frequency of online frauds and thefts in recent years.

The number of theft and fraud offences investigations last year by the GNCCB was 56 compared to 58 in 2020. The cyber crime unit has opened 15 investigations under that heading this year.

The number of ‘ransomware’ investigations last year totalled 15 compared to only one in 2020.

Online harassment is also a focus of the Dept of Justice and the Gardaí and the figures show that the GNCCB last year investigated 23 new harassment cases compared to 19 in 2020 and the figure for this year is already up to 15.

The number of human trafficking cases last year by the cyber crime bureau is 12 compared to only one in 2020.

The figures also show that the number of new ‘internal affairs’ investigations undertaken by the GNCCB last year totalled 20 – a five fold increase on the total of four for 2020.

The GNCCB was also called in to help investigate seven suspects in murder cases and this compared to 16 under that heading in 2020.

The unit also investigated 13 sexual assault/rape cases last year and this followed 17 under that heading in 2020.

The number of terrorism investigations last year totalled eight and this followed 10 in 2020.

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According to Minister McEntee, the expansion of the GNCCB is a priority project under A Policing Service for our Future, the implementation plan for the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

She stated: “The aim of this project is to significantly enhance the capabilities of GNCCB to tackle cybercrime in this jurisdiction, including the establishment of six GNCCB Cyber Satellite hubs strategically located throughout the country.

Minister McEntee stated that Cyber Satellite hubs have recently been established in Cork, Galway, Mullingar and Wexford and these hubs are engaged in cybercrime forensics, investigations and support roles.

Explaining the role of the GNCCB, Minister McEntee stated: “The Bureau is the national Garda unit tasked with the forensic examination of computer media seized during the course of any criminal investigations.

She said: “These include murders, cybercrime, online harassment, computer intrusions, child exploitation offences and any criminal investigation in which computers are seized or may contain evidential data.

She added: “The unit also conducts investigations into cyber-dependent crimes which are significant or complex in nature, network intrusions, data interference and attacks on websites belonging to Government departments, institutions and corporate entities.”

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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