Scotland

New campaign challenges online child sex predators

Jordan Yardley
Image caption Paedophile Jordan Yardley was caught after sending indecent sexual messages to an online "decoy"

A new campaign will directly address sex predators who target children online as it emerged police detected nearly 1,600 crimes in just 11 months.

The figures were revealed ahead of #StopItNow which asks offenders how their family, employers and the wider public would view their actions online.

Almost 70% of crimes between April last year and February were detected and resulted in arrests.

The four-week initiative will feature adverts across social media channels.

Police Scotland's Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald said: "Perpetrators of online child abuse are single minded and target children using messaging apps.

"This includes crimes of grooming children for sexual purposes, indecently communicating with children and causing children to participate in sexual activity."

She said offenders were predominately men but came from all age groups and walks of life.

'Being a paedophile doesn't bother me'

Image caption Jordan Yardley was confronted by members of a paedophile vigilante group

Paedophile Jordan Yardley was caught after sending indecent sexual messages to a decoy who was pretending to be an under-age schoolgirl.

The 22-year-old, from Livingston, West Lothian, was already a registered sex offender when he started grooming a person he thought was a 12-year-old girl on social media.

In reality, his Facebook "friend" was a member of the paedophile vigilante group Wolf Pack Hunters.

Yardley said he would show her how to kiss and "teach her about sex" when she turned 13.

He arranged to meet the youngster for sex but instead was confronted by members of the group who streamed the encounter live on the internet.

When he was quizzed on camera about his motives, Yardley confessed that being a paedophile "didn't bother him".

He was sentenced to 27 months in prison at Livingston Sheriff Court.

He will also be subject to 12 months' post-release supervision.

ACC MacDonald added: "Their motivations vary. Some may not see children as victims, they may not see themselves as abusers.

"Most don't believe they will get caught."

Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption The hard-hitting campaign will invite offenders to consider the impact of their actions on their loved ones

Forensic investigators use a range of tools and techniques to identify perpetrators.

The senior officer warned: "As our figures show, the vast majority of those who engage with children for sexual purposes, who groom or attempt to groom will be caught.

"They will face the consequences of their actions, their families will find out and they will face public exposure.

"Our message to offenders or people who think they might offend is get help.

"What you are doing is wrong, you will be caught and you risk losing everything."

Police Scotland has joined forces with Stop It Now! Scotland for the £30,000 campaign.

'Grey areas'

Stuart Allardyce, the organisation's national manager, said the crime ruined lives.

He said: "There are no grey areas whether it is sexual conversations with young people online, an attempt to solicit sexual images from them or trying to meet up - all of these things are illegal.

"Our work with men who have committed online offences tells us that many knew what they were doing was wrong - but that they didn't know how to stop.

"Our message is clear - get help."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sex offenders use social media sites to target children and strike up a relationship with them

Mr Allardyce said those close to offenders also suffered.

He added: "The long-lasting hurt caused to the families of offenders is often underestimated.

"We often work with wives and children of offenders who are devastated by the actions of their loved one."

Stop It Now! offers confidential and anonymous help and advice to those who want to change their behaviour.

New police figures reveal that 98 of the 1583 offences so far in 2018/19 involved reports of grooming or attempting to groom children for sexual purposes.

Of that number 86 (90%) were detected.

The total number of offences is significantly up on 2017/18 (1,391) and 2016/17 (1,395).

Grooming figures for 2018/19 have also increased compared with 2017/18 (69) and are more than double the total for 2016/17 (46).

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