Stop it Now campaign launch

North Wales Police joins child protection charity in campaign to tackle indecent images of children

Police in North Wales, together with Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire 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 on 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.

Officers in North Wales have been working extensively to detect and prosecute people downloading and sharing sexual images of children online.

North Wales Police Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard said: “Since February 2015, when the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) commenced, we have had 239 investigations which have led to search warrants being executed under the Protection of Children’s Act, at the home addresses of the suspects.

"Paedophiles are becoming increasingly sophisticated so it is vitally important that we respond accordingly with a team of our own experts catching those committing these types of crime and bringing them to justice.”

The joint campaign 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 North Wales 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 and significant as growing numbers of people from North Wales are already seeking help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. In 2017 140 people from the region 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.  It is intended that the latest campaign will have a similar effect in North Wales by directing more people towards help to stop looking at harmful images.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “I fully support this new partnership and the important work they are doing to prevent people from viewing sexually explicit pictures of children.

“Protecting vulnerable children is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan and here in North Wales we are investing a huge amount of resources into tackling this serious issue.

“Our POLIT team and their colleagues in the High Tech and Cyber Crime units are doing excellent work in a very challenging area of policing.

"This problem isn’t going to go away and we need to concentrate on raising awareness, education and reducing harm.

“This new joint campaign is another important step in the right direction in raising public awareness, educating those offending and driving home the consequences of their behaviour, as well as making people aware of the help that’s available.”

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.