Bid to combat sharing and viewing child images
A conference in Cardiff today (March 15) will consider how to tackle the growth in viewing and sharing of sexual images of under 18s online.
The conference, Together Tackling Online Child Sexual Exploitation, is taking place at the Principality Stadium.
It brings together senior representatives from Welsh Government, South Wales Police, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the leading child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, as well as other safeguarding professionals from across Wales and England.
The conference builds on the success of Operation Net Safe which was established to counter a threat identified in November 2015 when Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Child Protection, announced that over 100,000 individuals from across the UK were regularly accessing indecent images of children (IIOC) online.
In response, in November 2016, Operation Net Safe launched across Wales to tackle this threat. Operation Net Safe is a partnership between the four Welsh police forces and child protection charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation. The Foundation’s staff of Probation Officers, Social Workers, Psychologists and ex-police officers help prevent child sexual abuse, through work with victims, families and sex offenders themselves.
The operation is being led by South Wales Police and has so far resulted in 43 arrests in South Wales with more arrests across the rest of Wales.
The Stop it Now! Helpline has seen a rise in the number of people from Wales seeking confidential advice and support to stop online offending. In addition 3,699 people from Wales have visited the Stop it Now! self-help website, an increase of 226% on the previous two month period.
Speakers at today’s conference will raise awareness of the growth in numbers accessing sexual images of children online and the wider impact of this behaviour for victims, the offender themselves and offender’s family and friends, and will hear more about the success of Operation Net Safe to date.
South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Drake, All-Wales police lead for child sexual exploitation said: “Like elsewhere in the UK, the scale of the problem in Wales is both shocking and saddening.
"This conference will help us ensure that the combined efforts of police, local government, national government and the third sector is as effective as possible in keeping children safe and bringing offenders to justice. The event will hear from the leading authorities as well as harrowing testimony from victims, perpetrators and the wife of a perpetrator.
“Through Operation Net Safe the four Welsh police forces in partnership with other organisations, including the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, are tackling online child sexual abuse and exploitation, safeguarding victims and bringing offenders to justice.
Alun Michael the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales said: “Within Wales, Operation Net Safe is an excellent example of how we can work collaboratively to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and challenge those who seek to exploit and harm children.
“Effective partnership working is crucial to the early identification of offenders and victims and events such as this conference have a critical role in bringing us together as we look for opportunities to take prompt, positive action to stop online child abuse and exploitation. Together we are able to achieve more than we can alone and we must strive to collectively improve the way in which we safeguard victims and protect children at risk from this type of abuse."
Donald Findlater, Safeguarding Consultant at The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, added: “Too many people seem to think that it is alright to view sexual images of under 18s online. They may do this as part of an adult pornography habit; or they may have an established sexual interest in children that needs addressing urgently. But whatever the reason, they need to stop and stay stopped.
“In our work with those arrested for such viewing and sharing sexual images of children online, we often hear that they did not think they were doing any harm. But the reality is that the children in the images were typically abused when the image was first taken; and they are re-abused every time that image is viewed.
“Police across Wales have increased their capacity to tackle this crime, so the chances of getting caught has also increased. Those offending online must not bury their heads in the sand. That knock on the door will come if they do not stop their illegal and harmful behaviour."
For those who are struggling with what they may see as an addiction to this online material, help is available from Stop it Now! Phone 0808 1000 900 or visit the Stop it Now! Get Help website at http://www.get-help.stopitnow.org.uk