Devon and Cornwall Police join child protection charity in campaign to tackle demand for sexual images of children online
Campaign marks multi-agency approach across the South West
Police in Devon and Cornwall – together with forces from Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire - are today joining forces with a leading child protection charity to launch a campaign to tackle growing demand for sexual images of children online.
The regional campaign represents a multi-agency approach to tackling the growing demand for sexually explicit images of children. It will bring together robust law enforcement work with work already being undertaken by UK child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation(1).
The charity works to prevent people from viewing such illegal material in the first place; and to get them to stop if they have already started. It directs offenders to the charity’s Stop it Now! Get Help website that hosts online self-help resources, as well as the Stop it Now! confidential helpline (0808 1000 900) where they can get help to address their online behaviour and stop looking at these harmful and illegal images.
Viewing and sharing indecent images of children online is a serious and growing problem. In 2013 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) estimated that as many as 50,000 individuals in the UK were involved in downloading or sharing sexual images of children (2). Police estimate that the number of offenders has grown since then. In a BBC TV interview in October 2016, National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said that at least 100,000 people across the UK were now regularly viewing online sexual images of children.
The joint campaign launched today will use traditional media, social media, posters and other public relations activities to:
- raise public awareness of the growing problem of people viewing and sharing sexually explicit images of under 18s online
- educate those offending about the harm caused to children in the images who are re-victimised each time their image is viewed online
highlight the increase in police activity in Devon and Cornwall to tackle the issue
drive home the consequences of their behaviour to offenders – including arrest, possible imprisonment, break up of family and being put on the Sex Offenders Register
make people aware that there is help available to stop such behaviour.
Growing number of people in Devon and Cornwall seeking help to stop looking at sexual images of children
Today’s launch of the joint Police-Lucy Faithfull Foundation campaign is timely. Significant, and growing, numbers of people from Devon and Cornwall are already seeking help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
In 2017, 427 people from Devon and 137 people from Cornwall visited the charity’s online self-help resources or called the confidential helpline to get help with their own viewing of sexually explicit images of children, or that of a loved one.
The campaign follows similar activity undertaken in other parts of the UK by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. A campaign, run in partnership with Police Scotland, resulted in a 72% increase in the number of people from Edinburgh, East and West Lothian and the Borders seeking help to address their online behaviour, or that of another (3). It is intended that the campaign being launched today will have a similar effect in Devon and Cornwall by directing more people towards help to stop looking at harmful images.
Detective Chief Inspector Sheon Sturland of Devon and Cornwall Police said:
“Police in Devon and Cornwall have been working extensively to detect and prosecute people who are downloading and sharing sexual images of children online.
“We welcome this initiative with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. By raising awareness that potential and existing offenders can seek help for their unacceptable behaviour - we hope it will help prevent them seeking out and distributing indecent images and reduce the harm caused to victims and their families.”
Donald Findlater, child sexual abuse prevention expert and spokesperson for The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said:
“Too many people, especially men across all age groups, seem to think it is okay to view sexual images of under 18s online. It is not. Not only is it illegal, but it causes great harm to the children whose images are used. It also causes harm to those offending and to their families.
“Alongside police activity in arresting more and more offenders, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has been working over these past two years to develop its response to this growing problem. Whether arrested or not, we want online offenders to stop their illegal behaviour and to stay stopped. Our specialist staff have helped thousands to do this over recent years. We have also helped thousands more family members come to terms with the fact that someone they know and love has engaged in this behaviour.”
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