The top cop in charge of catching child porn offenders in Herts has urged anyone who thinks they may be at risk of this type of offending to get help before it is too late.
Det Chief Insp Glen Channer, who heads up the Herts child protection and paedophile units of around 30 specially trained officers, said: “If someone is convicted they will become a registered sex offender and they will go on a sex offenders programme. They should seek help now.”
The Gazette has reported on a series of men who have been through the courts in recent months for possessing or distributing indecent images of children.
The most high profile and shocking case is that of former Mayor of Dacorum Stephen Holmes, who was jailed on Friday after admitting charges relating to child abuse images earlier this year.
Mr Channer said: “We have arrested people from all demographics, all walks of life, all professions and all ages.
“They have all got a sexual interest in children.
“Each offender will have an excuse or reason for how they have come across these images.
“They are not particularly credible excuses.”
Last year the force arrested around 99 people for offences concerning abuse images of children, which is an increase on previous years, and so far this year – which runs from April to April – 50 people have been taken into custody.
Mr Channer said: “These people have always been there but we are more sophisticated at finding and catching them and the internet has made it easier for them to access these images.”
Children’s charity the NSPCC is calling for urgent action to stamp out the illegal trade in child abuse images.
In response to a Freedom of Information request Herts Constabulary told the good cause it would take too long to interrogate files to see how many pictures of children being sexually abused they had accumulated during investigations.
Back in 1990 – before the internet became hugely popular – the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 hard copy images in circulation across England and Wales. Now, the charity says, at least five times that amount are being confiscated every single day.
Mr Channer said: “We are working really hard to try and reduce this type of offending. If anyone is accessing or distributing images of children we will trace them and arrest them.”
He said that those who feel they are at risk of committing such a crime can get help by visiting their GP or by contacting the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, Stop It Now or the Samaritans.