A NEW campaign has been launched to tackle what has been described as a "growing demand" for sexual images of children online.

West Yorkshire Police has joined forces with child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation for the campaign, which will also see involvement and support from the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, safeguarding boards and local authorities.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation works to prevent people from viewing illegal material in the first place and to get them to stop if they have already started.

It directs offenders to the charity’s Stop It Now! Get Help website that hosts online self-help resources, as well as the Stop It Now! confidential helpline (0808 1000 900) where people can get help to address their online behaviour and stop looking at harmful and illegal images.

Last year, 1,365 people from West Yorkshire visited the charity’s online self-help resources or called the confidential helpline to seek help in relation to illegal online sexual behaviour.

The joint campaign, which has been launched today, will aim to raise public awareness of the growing problem of people viewing and sharing sexually explicit images of under 18s online, educate those offending about the harm caused to children in the images, highlight the increase in police activity across West Yorkshire to tackle the issue, drive home the consequences of their behaviour to offenders and to make people aware that there is help available to stop their behaviour.

Detective Superintendent Jon Morgan, Head of West Yorkshire Police’s Safeguarding Central Governance Unit, said: “Tackling child abuse of all forms is a top priority for West Yorkshire Police. Many don’t consider the viewing and sharing of indecent images of children in the same vein as contact offences but behind every image or video is a child who has been abused and continues to be abused with every download.

“We treat this offending very seriously and every year arrest hundreds of people for possession and distribution of indecent images. The Force works closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to take cases to court and ensure offenders face justice, including being made to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

"Our main aim will always be to eliminate the market for indecent images and to protect child victims, what we do find though is that people involved in this kind of offending are often also suffering themselves.

"Unlike most other crimes, when we arrest people in relation to indecent images offences, some are actually relieved. They have found themselves in a pattern of damaging behaviour that they can’t see a way out of."

He said the work of the charity is "vital" in working with those already offending, or about to offend, to education and support them to move away from that harmful path.