Hertfordshire paedophiles seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of children double

The number of people in Hertfordshire seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of children has dou

The number of people in Hertfordshire seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of children has doubled in the last 12 months. Picture: Pexels - Credit: Archant

The number of people in Hertfordshire seeking help to stop viewing sexual images of children has doubled in the last 12 months.

Stop It Now! is a national charity which provides an anonymous helpline and self-help website for paedophiles who want to stop their illegal online behaviour.

Today, the charity has revealed 1,186 people from Hertfordshire contacted Stop It Now! in 2019 - a 99 per cent increase from 2018, when 596 people made contact.

Callers to the helpline - which is run by a team of trained advisors - agree actions they will take to stop their illegal conduct in both the short and long term. For some, this means completely ceasing all use of the internet or all pornography; for others it involves installing controls and filters on devices. Some seek support from their partners or family members to help manage their behaviour in the future.

Helpline advisors also explore with callers the possibility of any direct risks to children, to ensure these children are protected.

Calls remain confidential and anonymous unless a child is at risk of harm.

The charity says the surge in callers follows its successful campaign effort, focusing on consequences and signposting resources to help individuals learn to control and stop their thoughts and behaviours.

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David, an offender in his early thirties jailed after indecent images of children were found on his computer, said: "I've lost friends and my life has changed in so many ways. My electronics are monitored and I'm limited in what jobs I can do, but I'm relatively lucky that my family stuck by me and I've had support that means I won't offend in future.

"The Stop It Now! helpline was invaluable when I was in a dark place. Working with them through their helpline, website and also face-to-face helped me understand the consequences of what I'd done, but also helped me work out what I needed to change to make sure I don't reoffend.

"I'd urge anyone worried about what they're doing to get help before it's too late."

The Stop It Now! helpline opened in 2002 and since then more than 46,000 people have contacted the helpline for support.

The charity says in 2018 the National Crime Agency estimated that 80,000 people in the UK posed a sexual threat to children online, and UK police forces make about 520 arrests each month relating to illegal online behaviour.

Donald Findlater, director of the Stop It Now! helpline, said: "Tens of thousands of men in the UK are viewing and sharing sexual images of under 18s - these men are our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. Most are adults, but a significant proportion are teenagers. Many of these men started viewing this illegal material as part of their adult pornography habit, somehow not noticing or perhaps caring that these were images of children being abused.

"Some don't know the law and need it spelling out. A few are struggling with a long-standing sexual interest in children and think looking at 'only pictures' is a way of containing that interest.

"Whoever they are, they need to know this behaviour is illegal; that children are harmed by it; that serious consequences await those involved in it; but that our helpline and website give anonymous and confidential support and advice to stop and stay stopped. Friends, family and colleagues need to know this too - so they notice and do something.

"The Stop It Now! helpline has worked with thousands of these men and the people around them over recent years - we help everyone be part of the solution to this problem. We hope to help thousands more in 2020."

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council's lead on child protection, said: "Accessing these images is not a victimless crime and viewing them creates more demand for these appalling offences.

"We are arresting more offenders than ever before - at least 500 people a month - and our tools for investigating and tracking down those responsible are the best they have ever been.

"We are committed to targeting the perpetrators of these crimes and bringing them to justice.

"The consequences of being caught are huge and include losing your job, your family life, being imprisoned and registered as a sex offender.

"Anyone having inappropriate thoughts about children should seek help from Stop It Now! Otherwise they should expect a visit from police officers."

Call the Stop it Now! helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit stopitnow.org.uk if you need support.