Campaign offers help to those who view online abuse images

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Media captionThe video campaign urges men and women who look at sexual images of children to seek help

A national internet video campaign has been launched to encourage people who view images of child sexual abuse online to seek help.

The videos feature warnings of the harm done by viewing such images.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) said it was aimed to deter would-be offenders and encourage them to seek therapy before being arrested.

Viewing or sharing an image of someone under the age of 18 carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

'Vast' problem

The NCA's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command estimates there are more than 50,000 people in the UK who share and download obscene images of children.

Keith Bristow, the head of the National Crime Agency, previously admitted the scale of the problem meant it was not possible for all offenders to be brought to justice.

The new campaign has been set up by Stop it Now! UK & Ireland - a child sexual abuse prevention campaign run by the LFF charity, which seeks to reduce the risk of children being sexually abused.

Image copyright Jupiter Images

Donald Findlater, director of research and development for the LFF, said recent research indicated as many as 10% of those who look at child abuse images may go on to abuse a child.

He said: "The sooner we stop people viewing indecent images of children online, the fewer children will be abused."

'Not a monster'

Image copyright Science Photo Library

One of those who viewed such images - who the BBC is calling Dave - was sentenced this year for possession of indecent images.

He said he had been "addicted" to adult pornography for years before he started looking for material including children.

"Through various pop-ups and so on, there would be school girl type images, and so on, and gradually more and more degrees which eventually led through to underage images".

"I do recall after very initially seeing any images that I was totally disgusted with myself for having done that - but at the same time I went back."

He was arrested last year, convicted, given a community sentence and placed on the sex offenders' register.

He also agreed to undergo therapy.

"I always suspected that one day there would be a knock at the door and when it came I was very petrified, but certainly as time has gone on there has been a huge sense of relief."

"I'm not a monster. I am just an ordinary person that you might just pass in the street."

The videos have been put together with help from the police and include comments from offenders - voiced by actors - who describe what a conviction did to their lives.

The videos also explain that the viewing of the images is not a victimless crime and highlight the harm done to children involved, as well as the consequences for the lives of people who access the images.

One shows officers knocking on the door of a man's home before his wife and child watch him being taken away in handcuffs.

Help is then offered through a confidential helpline run by the LFF, which can also organise group or individual therapy.

The videos are going to be rolled out across social media and through carefully placed online advertising.

There have been similar initiatives in Holland and Germany which have targeted men who admit to being sexually attracted to children.

'Shame, guilt, remorse'

Research published by the NSPCC in July this year revealed offenders are being convicted at the rate of two per day for possession of obscene images.

A study of 100 court cases found police had seized 4.5 million images of child sexual abuse.

Campaigners fear some of those those who look at the images may move on to abuse.

Dave who was convicted of possessing indecent images says he now feels, "a great sense of shame, guilt, remorse for my bad behaviours that I had".

His advice for other men and women in his position is simple.

"Get help before, before you're arrested, there is a path, there are a lot of very good people out there to help you, pick up the phone and start talking to someone".

"The best thing to do is to start to talk".

An NSPCC spokesman said it welcomed the efforts made to stop people viewing abuse images, but added: "But we mustn't forget there are thousands of young victims and similar efforts should be made to ensure they are identified, rescued and given protection and support."

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