A major child safeguarding conference in Wigan today will consider strategies for stopping the creation, viewing and sharing online of sexually explicit images of children.
The conference, The Internet and Indecent Images of Children: Working Together to Make Children Safe, brings together senior safeguarding professionals from local authorities, schools, police forces and the leading child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
The conference has been organised by TITAN, the Regional Organised Crime Unit for police forces across the North West.
TITAN has invited partner agencies from across the North West to raise professional understanding of this serious crime area. Police will also share with their partner agencies the findings, and successes so far, of a public awareness campaign launched in January this year - see below for further details.
The conference will be chaired by Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Alan Barr. Delegates will also receive presentations from a range of perspectives including the ex-wife of an offender, a police officer working in a specialist unit arresting online offenders, working with child victims of online offending, research on the impact on children when their father is arrested, and the voice of an offender.
Six police forces across the North West launch joint public campaign in January 2018 to tackle demand for child abuse images
Over 100,000 individuals from across the UK are regularly accessing indecent images of children (IIOC) online, according to National Police Chiefs' Council lead on Child Protection, Simon Bailey.
To counter this growing threat to child safety, six police forces in the North West (Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Cumbria and North Wales), in partnership with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, launched a public awareness campaign in January to tackle the growing demand for sexual images of under 18s online.
The campaign, launched in collaboration with The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, represents a multi-agency approach to tackling demand. It is doing this by bringing together the robust law enforcement work of the police with deterrence work already being undertaken by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The charity's Stop it Now! campaign directs offenders, potential offenders and their concerned loved ones to a confidential and anonymous helpline and online self-help resources, enabling them to proactively address their behaviour.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Barr, Head of Titan and Regional Collaboration, said:
"We all have a role to play both individually and as an organisation in creating safe online places for children and keeping children safe.
"To date, we have had a significant amount of success but we must not rest on our laurels and we must continue to improve our understanding of the threat and the challenge this possesses.
"For every statistic that we see there is a victim, which means a child being abused and that is one too many.
"The only way we can tackle this effectively is to strengthen our multi-agency working to provide victim focus services. Today is another milestone in raising the profile like never before."
And Donald Findlater, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Expert and Safeguarding Consultant at The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, commented:
"The viewing of sexual images of children is a massive problem across the UK.
"It is exciting to be joining with colleagues from a host of organisations from across the North West to explore the problem from all perspectives and, vitally, to create solutions that prevent this illegal behaviour.
"The police need all our support to tackle this crime. If we all play our parts - the public included - then expert police resources can focus on the most dangerous offenders, to ensure they are brought to justice and children are protected.
"Those who are viewing and sharing sexual images of under 18s need to recognise that their behaviour is illegal, that it harms children, and that there are grave consequences for them if they get caught.
"And the chances of getting caught are increasing. Confidential help to stop viewing sexual images of children is available for them and for their families - contact Stop it Now! today on 0808 1000 900 or at www.stopitnow.org.uk"