viewing images online - pic for display purposes only

The number of people in Cheshire seeking help to stop looking at sexual images of children online has more than doubled in just six months, latest figures show.

In the six months between July 2017 and January 2018, 163 people in the county contacted Stop it Now!, the child sexual abuse prevention project run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

But in the following six months, that figure rose to 477 in Cheshire – which is a 193% increase.

Across the North West, the figure leapt to 3,549 from 1,747 – a rise of 103%.

People seeking help and support were able to access it via specialist self-help online resources on the Stop it Now! Get Help website or via the confidential and anonymous Stop it Now! Helpline 0808 1000 900.

The dramatic rise in the number of people seeking help follows a major public awareness raising campaign launched by Stop it Now! in January.

The campaign was supported by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NW ROCU) and police forces including Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cumbria and North Wales.

The campaign used traditional media, social media, posters and other public relations activities.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Barr, North West Regional Lead for Serious and Organised Crime, said: “The problem of viewing indecent images of children online has grown exponentially in recent years.

“Technological advancements, increased accessibility, and the presumption of anonymity have all led to more and more people viewing and sharing illegal images.

“Every time a sexual image of a child is viewed, that child is re-victimised and further demand is created.

“It is vital, therefore, we work closely with partners and use all available resources to protect children and, wherever possible, prevent offending.

“We have a duty to protect children from harm and to deter individuals from committing these types of horrific offences and we continue to seek to identify and convict those who engage in this behaviour.

“But as the results of this campaign show, we can also educate and stop individuals from continuing to offend – or from offending in the first place.

“Enforcement activity remains a high priority for police locally, regionally and nationally.

“And being arrested comes with life-changing consequences for offenders and their families.

“To those engaged in this behaviour, I would say consider your actions now and seek help to stop. If not, you should expect to face serious consequences.”

Det Insp Stuart York, Cheshire Constabulary Strategic Public Protection Directorate, added: “Safeguarding and protecting children from sexual abuse is a priority for Cheshire Constabulary.

“We are committed to seeking out individuals who abuse children through online activity, to bring them to justice and hold them to account for their actions.

“We are very pleased with the success of the Stop It Now! campaign which has seen an increase of nearly 200% of people seeking help about their online viewing habits in Cheshire.

“We will continue to support the work of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and urge anyone who is worried about their online viewing habits, or that of family members or friends, to seek help from the Foundation.

“They can provide advice and intervention work to help people manage their thoughts and behaviours, and to help them to live responsible, fulfilling and law abiding lives.

“It is also important to make it clear that viewing or sharing sexual images of children is illegal – it is child abuse – and behind every image is a victim.”

Director of the Stop it Now! Helpline, Donald Findlater, said: “There are thousands more people in the North West continuing to view sexual images of children online.

“Just as there are thousands more wives, partners and parents who are, or who should be worried about the online behaviour of someone they love.

“Some of these those engaged in this behaviour will be reading these words now.

“All of them need to be clear that sexual images of children are illegal, that children are harmed when they are made, and also each time they are viewed.”

Stop It Now campaign - table

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