Child Protection Digital Forensic Lab Opens

The dignitaries observing how the child protection digital forensic lab operates.

A special digital forensic laboratory designed to prevent and respond to criminal acts of online abuse, exploitation and violence against children has been opened in Accra.

The lab, which is a joint collaboration between UNICEF Ghana and the Ghana Police Service, is expected to strengthen the reliability and integrity of police investigations of online abuse against children through the acquisition, analysis and presentation of electronic evidence from digital devices and the internet.

It is also expected to help the police detect and investigate the causes of trafficking and kidnapping in cases where digital devices were used and particularly cause the removal of child sexual abuse images from online sites.

UNICEF Country Representative, Anne-Claire Dufay, said in addition to providing modern equipment and tools, UNICEF was strengthening the skills of Police Officers to detect and investigate cases, using new techniques and evidence from digital devices and internet.

“This initiative promises to be a game changer in protecting children from pernicious acts of online abuse, exploitation and violence,” she added.

Madam Dufay encouraged Ghana to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Minister for Interior, Ambrose Dery, who formally launched the forensic lab lauded the initiative and appealed to the public to collaborate with the police service to protect children online.

He said with the advent of Covid-19, more children are turning to the internet to study while at home and are exposed to online abuse adding that the inauguration of the lab was therefore timely.

He said the laboratory is the first of its kind in the West and Central African sub-regions, and will link the Ghana Police Service with Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation Database.

Minister for Communications, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, in a speech read on her behalf, said the government would continue to scale up its efforts in creating awareness and building capacity in the area of cybercrime/cybersecurity in order to equip children, the public, business and state institutions with the requisite skills and information needed to stay safe online.

“We laud the relentless efforts of all our partners, especially UNICEF-Ghana, who have rendered unflinching support in ensuring the safety and security of our children and young people both online and offline”.

Director General of Administration, Ghana Police Service, Commissioner Of Police (COP) Dr. George Akuffo Dampare, noted that the establishment of the lab with its intended capacity building training programme would go a long way to prepare the police adequately in their efforts to combat online crime and protect children.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) Ken Yeboah, the Director-General, Criminal Investigation Department, said records available from the National Centre of Exploited Children reports, about 40 indecent images of children were uploaded on the surface web every week from Ghana, which consolidated the real need for digital forensic laboratory.

“Hence, launching a laboratory that would assist acquire evidence in a forensically sound manner, admissible in court is worth celebrating.”

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri