Police campaign urges people viewing indecent child images to seek help - or risk losing it all
Company directors and solicitors were among the seemingly respectable people arrested in West Yorkshire last year after downloading or sharing indecent images of children.
Now a new police campaign has become the first of its kind in the county to reach out directly to adults who are viewing indecent image of children online.
It warns them that they will be caught if they don’t take action now to stop their illegal activities - and reminds them of everything they stand to lose.
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said: “While people may not be surprised that it is predominantly men that are arrested for this kind of offence, they may be surprised by the wide range of individuals that we are taking to the cells.
"We see men of all ages and backgrounds, many on the face of it family men or respectable professionals."
She said most of the people arrested for downloading and sharing indecent images of children have not come to the attention of police before and are not what people may think of as a criminal.
“We know some offenders think that it is a victimless crime as they are not physically abusing the child but this is simply not the case" she said.
"Victims tell us that each time an image or video of them is downloaded or shared it is like being abused all over again.
“It cannot be clearer - if you are convicted of viewing or distributing indecent images of children, you will be required to sign the sex offenders register because you are a sex offender.”
West Yorkshire Police arrested 149 adults on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children during 2017.
Those arrested included four company directors, two solicitors and four people working in the computer industry.
“The message we want to get out there is it doesn’t matter who you are, if you are looking at illegal images online then our dedicated Abusive Images Team will catch you and the repercussions are far reaching,” ACC Hankinson added.
In addition to the actual sentence handed down at court, the consequences for the offender can include social care referrals for any children to whom they have access and potential breakdowns in relationships and friendships.
Offences will be disclosed to work, clubs and organisations in which they are involved and could result in potential loss of employment.
The campaign will also highlight the social stigma, social isolation and mental illness that can result from being convicted of such offences.
West Yorkshire Police is encouraging anyone with concerns about their online habits to seek help now.
The number of people in West Yorkshire accessing support via the Lucy Faithfull Foundation is on the rise, with a 38 per cent increase in people visiting their website and calling their helpline in 2017.
Clinical manager Tom Squire said: "The impact on children when their image is repeatedly shared across the internet can be devastating. The best way to protect children from such abuse is by deterring people from looking at these images in the first place, and to get those who are looking to stop.
"We know from our work that when you make people aware that help is available to stop, people will take up that offer of help. We work with many men arrested after downloading huge numbers of abusive images of children. Nearly all of them say they wish they had known sooner about the help that’s available to stop.
“So I’d urge anyone out there worried about what they are looking at online to get in touch - via the Stop it Now! Get Help website, or via our confidential Helpline on 0808 1000 900.”
Visit the West Yorkshire Police website for more information about the campaign or register for a live webchat with safeguarding officers taking place Wednesday, 6pm-7pm.