POLICE need more resources if they are to tackle paedophiles who are using the internet.
That is the view of Huddersfield University researcher Dr Bernard Gallagher, who has just published a detailed study on how paedophiles use the web to prey on children.
He said the Government and agencies needed to be more aware of the problems police face.
Dr Gallagher, senior research fellow in applied childhood studies, said: "The police simply can't cope with the number of cases coming in.
"Individuals are going on the internet and making their interests known.
"It offers the police a quite effective way of actually detecting these people.
"But the police don't have the resources for proactive work."
Dr Gallagher's comments come just days after three paedophiles were jailed for a total of 27 years for conspiring over the internet to plot the rape of two young sisters.
Alan Hedgcock, 41, David Beavan, 42, and Robert Mayer, 42, discussed over the internet how to lure the girls aged 13 and 15 into woods.
It was the first case to see paedophiles convicted on evidence gathered on the web alone.
During research for the study, paid for by the Nuffield Foundation, Dr Gallagher and three colleagues spoke with UK police forces and Revenue and Customs officers .
He found that police deal with around 30 cases a year of paedophiles grooming children over the web and more than 1,000 cases of child pornography being downloaded.
Dr Gallagher said: "The Government did provide extra resources to the police. But these are not anywhere near enough to cope with the scale of the problem."
But Dr Gallagher, who has been research- ing child protection issues for more than 20 years, said the most shocking find was the way paedophiles used the internet to communicate about plans to abuse, torture and even murder children - like Hedgcock, Beavan and Mayer.
About 30 cases of this kind are dealt with every year by police.
Dr Gallagher said: "It is the hundreds of cases of child pornography which are causing the most work for the police.
"But the grooming and conspiracies are a much bigger issue. You are talking about new victims.
"It is not uncommon for these individuals to talk about torturing or murdering children. It is not a fantasy. It was horrific just how serious these individuals were."
In some cases the abuse was conducted only online, with paedophiles able to view or direct what happened in real time.
In other cases offenders meet and are provided with a child to sexually abuse.
Dr Gallagher said internet-based paedophilia accounted for just 1% of all child abuse cases.
But it is a growing problem, as are technologies such as cameras and the internet on mobile phones.
He said: "The number of people who are interested in sexually abusing children has remained the same.
"But the internet provides them with a new and unique opportunity to facilitate child sexual offences."
He feels that internet service providers (ISPs) need to do more to protect young web users.
He said: "Most people use the internet for wholly legitimate purposes. But there is a flipside.
"ISPs are increasingly taking these problems more seriously, but they are making a fortune out of the internet and they have to allocate more of that money into preventing child sexual abuse."
Dr Gallagher has sent copies of his report to ISPs and the Government.
He says: "Sometimes people are not as aware about these issues as they might be.
"The general feeling among these offenders is that they don't have much of a chance of being caught. Until we can change that mentality they will keep doing what they do."
* To read the full report by Dr Gallagher's team, visit http://www.hud.ac.uk/hhs/research/acs/staff/bg.htm
THIS case study illustrates the pro-active policing that Dr Gallagher feels would help tackle paedophiles.
A police unit investigating internet child abuse was using the internet to monitor newsgroups used by individuals with a sexual interest in children.
The police saw videos of a child being abused and thought it could have been made in the UK.
They made inquiries and found a suspect. Police searched his property and found a computer, camera, photo and DVD evidence that he had been the abuser - including a video of him abusing his victim, who he had been targeting for seven years.
Further investigations revealed he had been exchanging images with paedophiles across Europe and America via the internet.
They had even been giving him directions on how to abuse the child.
The UK offender was tried and received several life sentences for his crimes. The investigation also eventually smashed an international paedophile ring.
Police investigations in the UK per year:
* International child sexual abuse victims: 33.
* International child sex abusers: 110.
* Internet-initiated grooming of children for sexual abuse: 41.
* Internet-initiated incitement and conspiracy to commit abuse: 31.
* Internet-based child pornography: 1,493.