Stop it Now Campaign

South East police forces join child protection charity in campaign to tackle indecent images of children

    • Campaign marks multi-agency approach to tackling demand for sexual images of children online
    • Stop It Now! helpline and website saw 69% increase in contact from South East between 2016-2018

Today, police forces across the South East (Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley) are coming together to support a leading child protection charity around the launch of their 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 (2).

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. Through the Stop It Now! deterrence campaign, confidential helpline (0808 1000 900) and website, it helps people address their online behaviour and stop looking at these harmful and illegal images. The Stop It Now! helpline recently received a £600,000 funding boost from the Home Office.

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 (3). Police estimate that the number of offenders has grown since then. In 2018 the National Crime Agency estimated the figure to be 80,000 (4).

Police have been working extensively to detect and prosecute people downloading and sharing sexual images of children online. The four forces involved in the campaign have specialist teams who are actively targeting those who are viewing, sharing and making indecent images of children. The 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 police activity across the South East 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. 

The number of people already seeking help from Stop It Now! is significant. In 2018, 383 people from the South East called the Stop It Now! helpline to seek help in relation to illegal online sexual behaviour, and the online self-help resources had 4393 users from the South East. This represents a 69% increase in contact to the campaign from the South East since 2016, the first full year of the deterrence campaign. 

The work follows similar activity undertaken in other parts of the UK by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation’s Stop It Now! campaign. When run in partnership with police forces in the North West, a similar campaign resulted in a threefold increase in the number of people from the region seeking help to address their online behaviour, or that of another. It is intended that the campaign being launched today will have a similar effect in the South East by directing more people towards help to stop looking at harmful images.

Donald Findlater, Director of the Stop It Now! helpline, 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 to the children in the images. Preventing the viewing of these images protects children.

“Alongside the police arresting more and more offenders, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation has been working to help online offenders to stop their illegal behaviour and to stay stopped, whether they’ve been arrested or not. Every offender who stops, stops harming children.  Our specialist staff have helped thousands over recent years. We’ve also helped thousands more family members come to terms with the fact that someone they know and love has engaged in this behaviour, getting them help to tackle the problem.”

Jon Savell, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable for Surrey Police said:

“I think it’s really important that we support the Stop It Now! Campaign, which highlights just how serious an offence downloading or sharing indecent images of children online is. By helping people address their online behaviour, deterring them from viewing abusive images of those under the age of 18, the campaign will assist in protecting children from harm, which is an absolute priority for us. The campaign also offers advice and support for people who suspect, or know of, others who are accessing indecent images of children online.

“In Force, we have a specialist Paedophile Online Investigation Team that will continue to pursue and deal robustly with offenders of this serious offence.”