THE NUMBER of people in Lancashire seeking help to stop looking at sexual images of children online has increased by 146 per cent in just six, figures show.

The figures, released by Stop it Now!, a child sexual abuse prevention project run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, show that Lancashire has more than the North-West average, which is just over 100 per cent.

Between July 2017 and January 2018 1,747 people in the North West contacted Stop it Now! seeking help for either their own online sexual behaviour or for that of someone they knew. In the following six-month period that figure had leapt to 3,549, a rise of 103 per cent.

The dramatic rise in people seeking help follows a major campaign launched by Stop it Now! in January.

That was supported by police forces across the North West.

Lancashire assistant chief constable Jo Edwards said: “As a police service we have a duty to protect children from harm and deter individuals from committing these types of horrific offences.

“As such, we remain committed to identifying and convicting those individuals who wish to share indecent images and engage with children online for sexual gratification.

“However, we also recognise the need to educate and stop individuals from continuing to offend, or prevent individuals from offending in the first place.

“Our partnership with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and this wider regional partnership plays a key role in this and we are delighted to see that early indications show this work is paying dividends with an increase in people seeking out information and support. This means that potentially we have been able to safeguard more children at risk of exploitation or prevented someone from offending.”

Assistant chief constable Alan Barr, North West lead for serious and organised crime, said: “The problem of viewing indecent images of children online has grown exponentially in recent years. Technological advancements, increased accessibility, and the presumption of anonymity have all led to more and more people viewing and sharing illegal images. Every time a sexual image of a child is viewed, that child is re-victimised and further demand is created.”

Director of the Stop it Now! Helpline, Donald Findlater, said: “We are delighted with the success of the campaign so far.”

For the confidential helpline call 0808 1000 900.