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Germany sees spike in child sexual abuse images

November 7, 2021

The Federal Criminal Police chief has warned that the huge increase in cases is stretching police resources. On the same day, a Catholic priest was fired over a probe into child sexual abuse images.

A person looks at an app showing images (blurred) of child sexual abuse
In May, German police uncovered one of the world's largest underground platforms for sharing images of child sexual abuseImage: Andreas Franke/picture alliance

Germany has seen an almost doubling of cases involving images of child sexual abuse in the first half of 2021, the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said on Sunday.

BKA President Holger Münch told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that there were as many cases from January to July as recorded in the whole of last year.

"The number of reports that we receive about such crimes is up, and the number of investigations is increasing," Münch said.

"The significant increase... will increasingly bring the police to their resource limits," he warned, adding that the BKA would likely be called upon to "provide more intensive support" to police in Germany's 16 states in the fight against crimes involving child sexual abuse images.

Why Germany is losing the fight against pedophiles on the internet

Abuse cases growing rapidly

Münch didn't give specific figures for this year but in 2020, BKA registered 18,761 cases — an increase of almost 53% compared to the year before.

The police agency cited a further 2,600 cases committed in Germany that were tipped off by a US-based child protection group.

BKA said in 2020, it had received more than 55,600 tipoffs about possible criminal acts relating to the production and distribution of images depicting the sexual abuse of minors.

Catholic priest faces investigation

Münch's comments came on the same day it was revealed that a Catholic priest from the northwestern city of Osnabrück was being investigated over alleged crimes involving child sex abuse images.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Osnabrück told the KNA news agency on Sunday that the clergyman has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.

The spokesperson said the priest had previously informed the bishop personally about the investigation against him.

Darknet platform shut down

In May, German police uncovered one of the world's largest underground websites for child sexual abuse images with more than 400,000 users.

Four people connected to the Boystown platform, which had operated on the so-called Darknet, were arrested.

In July, police identified more than 1,600 suspects after the mass sharing of material showing the sexual abuse of minors in chat groups. 

As a result, suspects were identified throughout Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and the US.

The garden summer house in Münster where child sexual abuse videos were shot
Last year, four men in the Münster child sex ring were jailed for imprisoning, drugging and raping minorsImage: David Inderlied/Kirchner-Media/picture alliance

Last year, a child sex ring operating from a garden summer house was uncovered in the western city of Münster.

The lead defendant was handed a 14-year sentence in July, while his 47-year-old mother was sentenced to five years for her role as an accessory.

Three other men received sentences ranging from 10 years to 12 years.

The men filmed their sexual assaults on children and uploaded to the internet what presiding judge Matthias Pheiler called "horrific and deeply disturbing footage."

mm/fb (AFP, dpa, KNA, Reuters)