Self-help website for potential paedophiles sees surge in West Yorkshire users

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Almost 40 men from Wakefield have visited a website to get help tackle their attraction to viewing sexual images of children over the last year, it has been revealed.

The site - Stop it Now! - was set up as part of an abuse prevention campaign and offers anonymous support to those concerned about their own or a loved ones attraction to youngsters.

Across West Yorkshire, more than 482 people from Leeds contacted the site, with 130 from Bradford, 70 from Huddersfield and 38 from Wakefield.

In addition, 35 calls from West Yorkshire were made to a special helpline in the past 12 months, and represents a 30 per cent increase from the previous 12-month period.

The figures for people accessing help through the Stop it Now! helpline and website come at a time when the police are reporting an escalation, across the UK, in online viewing and sharing of child abuse images.

In 2013 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) estimated that as many as 50,000 individuals in the UK were involved in downloading or sharing such images.

But in a BBC TV interview in October 2016, National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said that at least 100,000 people in the UK were now regularly viewing online sexual images of children.

To help address this growing online threat, a major conference takes place in Wakefield today, December 1, to discuss latest developments in preventing online abuse of children.

Safeguarding Children in the Digital World has been organised by West Yorkshire Police in collaboration with the Marie Collins Foundation, a UK charity that helps children to recover from sexual abuse and exploitation experienced online.

The conference is being attended by over 250 safeguarding practitioners from across the UK and will be chaired by Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s lead on child protection.

Detective Superintendent Darren Minton of West Yorkshire Police, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for key strategic partners to come together to focus on the digital world and how offenders are adapting their techniques to groom young people.

“By working together we can help to make a real difference.

Founder of Stop it Now!, Donald Findlater, said: “Over the past 14 years Stop it Now! has worked with thousands of sex offenders, including many men who had been arrested for viewing sexual images of under 18s online.

“We help them change their behaviour and get their lives back on a decent track.

“Most had not thought that others would ever find out - seeing their online lives as somehow separate from the real world.

“Few had considered the consequences of getting caught. Following arrest, their lives are often in turmoil.

“Imagine what it is like for a husband and father to have to tell his wife and children that he has been arrested for viewing sexual images of children online.

“To have to tell his mum and dad, then having to tell his boss, and then his friends.

“Most have bitter regrets about the harm they have done to their families, to the victims in the images they viewed, and to themselves.

“But they also tell us they might never have stopped their illegal online behaviour if they’d not been caught.”