Wales

'Shocking and saddening' scale of online child sex abuse

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The scale of online child abuse in Wales is "both shocking and saddening", the police chief leading a campaign to tackle the offence has said.

Operation Net Safe is being launched by Wales' four police forces on Monday and a new unit has already started 19 investigations since late September.

South Wales Police's Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said he wanted people to think about their actions.

He said "hundreds, if not thousands" were viewing images online every day.

Dedicated police and forensic teams seek out people using the internet to view and exchange child abuse images and videos in Wales.

Mobile forensics laboratories can be set up in the homes of suspects to examine computers, mobiles, tablets and data storage devices.

The approach has already led to six arrests and a number of inquiries are ongoing.

Image caption ACC Drake said offenders had "nowhere to hide"

The new campaign is urging offenders or those thinking about viewing images to seek help.

ACC Drake, the all-Wales lead for tackling child sexual exploitation, said: "Often offenders can convince themselves that there isn't a victim because the images already exist online and they don't have direct contact with the children or young people involved.

"But those children were abused and exploited to make those images."

Police are working closely with child protection charity, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, whose Stop it Now! campaign directs offenders, potential offenders or concerned families to a confidential and anonymous helpline and self-help resources.

Donald Findlater, safeguarding consultant at the foundation, said: "This behaviour is illegal, whether the viewers realise it or not.

"Many will have landed on this material after months or years looking at legal, adult pornography. Others will be paedophiles.

"Whoever they are, I urge them to stop their illegal behaviour and get the help they need to stay stopped."

Dedicated welfare support is also being made available by forces to police officers dealing with upsetting images in their work.

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