POLICE in Dorset have joined a campaign to tackle the growing demand for sexual images of children online as figures show more than 300 local people sought help to stop looking at indecent pictures.

Dorset Police is working with forces in the south west and a child protection charity.

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 the 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 and a confidential helpline.

Figures from the charity reveal 285 people in Dorset visited the website last year to get help with their own online behaviour, or someone else's. Meanwhile, 38 people in the county called the helpline.

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.

The joint campaign launched today aims 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 across the south west 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

Chief Officer for the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) Assistant Chief Constable, Dave Lewis, said: “This is an appalling crime. It’s wrong to believe that viewing images in your own home doesn’t harm anybody.

"Individuals viewing indecent images of children are engaging in criminal activity and causing untold harm to the children involved. We are committed to pursuing those involved in the online abuse of children, they are the target of police investigations and we will hold them to account for their actions.

“Anyone who is concerned that they may be at risk of breaking the law should seek help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation before it’s too late. The organisation is a trusted lifeline for those who need to manage their behaviour and want support in altering their mind-set and living responsible, fulfilled lives.”

For more information visit lucyfaithfull.org.uk and stopitnow.org.uk