Campaign marks multi-agency approach to tackling demand for sexual images of children online
Police in Lancashire – together with forces from Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Cumbria and North Wales - 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.
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. 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 Lancashire 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.
Today's launch of the joint Police-Lucy Faithfull Foundation campaign is timely. Significant, and growing, numbers of people from the county are already seeking help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. In 2017 585 people from the county 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 Lancashire by directing more people towards help to stop looking at harmful images.
Jo Edwards, head of serious crime at Lancashire Constabulary, said:
“Today marks the start of Lancashire Constabulary’s work with the Lucy Faithful Foundation. The ‘Stop it now Campaign’ is part of a wider North West partnership between the charity and each of the six North West police forces to help prevent online offending against children, including the sharing and viewing of indecent images.
"The advancement in technology, accessibility to indecent images of children and the presumption of anonymity whilst offending online has seen an increase in the number of people viewing and sharing indecent images of children and seeking to use the internet to engage with children for sexual purposes. This type of offending against some of our most vulnerable members of our communities, our children, is unacceptable, behind every image or engagement is a child.
"As a police service we have a duty to protect children from harm and to deter individuals from committing these types of horrific offences and here in Lancashire we will continue to seek to identify and convict those individuals who wish to share indecent images and engage with children online for sexual gratification.
"But we also recognise the need to educate and stop individuals from continuing to offend, or prevent individuals from offending in the first place.
"Our partnership with the Lucy Faithful Foundation and this wider regional partnership plays a key role in this, providing an online space in which to signpost individuals who are offending or about to offend, to recognise the consequences of their actions and to seek support. Lucy Faithful Foundation have worked closely with a number of other police forces to successfully divert and prevent offending behaviour, but also support families of offenders in dealing with the wider impact of such offending. I hope that through todays launch ‘The Stop it now’ will continue to protect many more children, reduce offending in Lancashire.”
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, it also causes great harm - primarily to the children in the images - but also to the offenders themselves.
“Alongside police activity in arresting more and more offenders, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation has been working over these last two years to develop its own response and resources. 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 and get help to tackle the problem.”
Find out more about our campaign including videos here.
Find out more about the Lucy Faithfull Foundation here.
Visit the Stop it Now! website to gain support here.
Visit Lancashire Victim Services to gain support here.
Learn more about child sexual exploitation here.