Sharp rise in child indecent images in Scotland

Sinister computer finger Image copyright Thinkstock

More than 1,900 offences involving possession of indecent images of children were reported by police in Scotland over the last three years

The total - the highest for any single force in the UK - included a 17% rise in cases last year.

The NSPCC , which obtained the figures, is calling on internet companies to do more to tackle the problem and for greater education of the dangers.

Police Scotland said it was committed to keeping children safe.

A Freedom of Information request from the charity revealed that in Scotland there were 1,904 indecent images offences reported over the last three years. The total figure for the UK was 21,651

Joanna Barrett, policy and public affairs manager for NSPCC Scotland, said: "These figures clearly show that there is a growing problem of people viewing child abuse material and more needs to be done to tackle the issue.

"We want to see companies who operate online to prioritise this issue by committing significant expertise and resources to preventing the publication and distribution of these images.

"Social network providers and other technology platforms must realise that they are the key enablers of online child sexual abuse and make a serious commitment to tackling it."

The police figures also showed that across the UK, where the age of the suspect was known, 2,031 under-18s were reported to police for indecent images offences.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The charity is worried that children may share naked images

The NSPCC is concerned that children reported to police may include youngsters who have shared naked "selfies".

Ms Barrett added: "Children need to be taught about the dangers of sending sexual pictures of themselves so they don't find themselves at risk of harm and abuse.

"Young people who are caught 'sexting' put themselves at risk of sexual exploitation, grooming and cyber bullying, whilst they could also face the prospect of a criminal record if they are reported to police.

"That's why we have recently issued advice and guidance to parents about how to talk to their children about sexting, as well as what to do if they have been sharing sexual images of themselves."

Police Scotland's Operation Latisse earlier this year saw 77 people charged and thirty million indecent images seized.

Det Ch Supt Lesley Boal said: "All children have a right to protection against abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence. The impact of online child sexual abuse can be wide ranging and have a long-lasting and potentially life-changing effect on the child.

"The possession of or sharing of images depicting the sexual assault of children or indecent images of children is not a victimless crime, it is child sexual abuse.

"Police Scotland proactively tackles the many forms of online child sexual abuse, our objective being to identify children who have been the victim of or who are at risk of online sexual abuse and identify perpetrators/predators who pose a risk to children online.

"Our message for perpetrators is very clear, Police Scotland employs the latest technology to investigate online abuse and trace offenders."

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