The number of people seeking help to stop viewing images of child abuse has risen by 40% in the past year.
According to figures released by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity which runs the Stop it Now! campaign, more than 36,000 people made contact in 2017, a nationwide increase of 40% from the previous year.
In Scotland, the number of people contacting the group through its website and helpline rose by 55%.
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Stop it Now! has been providing advice and support since 2002 and aims to encourage people who view images of child sexual abuse online to come forward and seek help. More than half of contacts came from people concerned about their own behaviour, The Independent reports.
The charity also said the sharp rise over the past year is partly explained by a campaign to tackle the viewing of child sex abuse images launched in October 2015.
Research published by the NSPCC in 2015 revealed that offenders were being convicted at the rate of two per day for possession of obscene images, and the BBC reported at the time that a study of 100 court cases found police had seized 4.5 million images of child sexual abuse.
Despite a maximum prison sentence of up to ten years for the offence, approximately 100,000 people in the UK are viewing and sharing sexual images of children online, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey told the Associated Press that, alongside the important role for education in raising awareness and a greater role for technology companies in child protection, “it is also crucial that offenders who are yet to be arrested are given the opportunity to seek help”.
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: “While these are shocking figures, it is encouraging to see how many offenders out there are wanting to get help and support to stop looking at illegal online images of child sexual abuse.”
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