Press Release

GCHQ and NCA join forces to ensure no hiding place online for criminals

Last Updated: 02 Aug 2016
Director GCHQ and Director General NCA have officially opened a co-located Joint Operations Cell which will focus initially on tackling online child sexual exploitation.

Press Release - 06 Nov 2015

The Director of GCHQ and the Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA) have today officially opened a co-located Joint Operations Cell (JOC), which will focus initially on tackling online child sexual exploitation.

The Prime Minister announced plans to create the JOC at the We Protect Children Online Global Summit in December 2014. The opening of the co-located team in Warrington marks a significant milestone in tackling the most serious and organised criminal activity online.

Director GCHQ Robert Hannigan and Director General NCA Keith Bristow attended the opening.

Robert Hannigan said: "The Joint Operations Cell will increase our ability to identify and stop serious criminals, as well as those involved in child sexual exploitation and abuse online. This is a challenging task as we must detect them while they attempt to hide in the mass of data. We are committed to ensuring no part of the internet, including the dark web, can be used with impunity by criminals to conduct their illegal acts."

Keith Bristow said: "The explosion in online communication channels has brought huge benefits for society. It has also significantly expanded the means by which criminals can share information, plan crimes including the sexual exploitation of children, and target victims. The JOC is a genuinely innovative development, using the best of our respective agencies’ skills to tackle the most complex cases and the most dangerous offenders online."

The co-location will strengthen an already close partnership between GCHQ and NCA. Joint work so far has included looking for behaviour patterns in bulk data. This helped identify a UK national accessing sites containing indecent images of children that required a payment to view the most extreme indecent images. Further analysis produced sufficient intelligence to enable law enforcement to enter and search his property. Several other devices were found that he had used to access indecent images of children.

This case shows the complexity of activity that will form a large portion of the work of the JOC. Its initial work will bring the agencies’ expertise, partnerships and access to bear on safeguarding children from some of the worst threats of sexual exploitation and abuse. Together with other parts of GCHQ and the NCA, the new facility will realise the joint objectives of:

  • Tackling the most technologically advanced serious and organised criminals
  • Fully exploiting data to draw out operational impact
  • Building capability for UK law enforcement to deal with the challenges of online crime.

The JOC is expected to be a significant force multiplier for the collective GCHQ and NCA efforts.

Notes to Editors

About GCHQ

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). GCHQ works to protect the UK and its citizens from a range of threats to national security, including from terrorism, serious and organised crime and cyber-attack. It also works to protect UK forces wherever they are deployed and, through its Information Security arm CESG, provides policy and assistance on the security of Government communications and electronic data.

About NCA

The National Crime Agency(NCA) leads UK law enforcement’s fight to cut serious and organised crime.  We have national and international reach and the mandate and powers to work in partnership with other law enforcement organisations to bring the full weight of the law to bear on serious and organised criminals.

For more information about this news release contact the GCHQ Media team.


GCHQ works with law enforcement and on the Dark Net to identify & arrest paedophiles