More than 700 indecent images arrests made in five years
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More than 700 people in Suffolk have been arrested for offences involving indecent images of children in the past five years, new figures have revealed.
The Suffolk police statistics for the crime, released following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from this newspaper, showed the number of arrests peaked in 2018 when 181 people were suspected of possessing or distributing indecent images of children.
In total last year, 137 people were arrested, which represented an increase of 33% on the 2020 figures.
The number of people charged with indecent image offences has fallen in recent years, from 77 in 2019 to 19 last year.
However, Suffolk police said there will be people currently under investigation for the crime, and therefore charging numbers are subject to change.
A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “Investigations into online abuse are very varied and complex and our response will see each case individually assessed.
"The digital support officers make a positive impact in supporting our detectives in investigating online crime investigations across the county.
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"The internet is not an anonymous space for accessing indecent images; such activity leaves a digital footprint and we do our utmost to find it.”
A spokesman for the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which is dedicated to preventing sexual abuse, said 1,444 people in Suffolk called the charity's confidential helpline or visited online self-help modules in 2021, concerned about their own or someone else’s online behaviours.
This was an increase of 53% from the previous year, with the majority of callers concerned about their own online offending, according to the charity.
The spokesman said: "Our research and experience tell us that no two people have the same journey to begin engaging in this illegal online behaviour.
"Many men who otherwise have healthy, adult sexual relationships begin viewing sexual images of children. Clearly, some people who view sexual images of children do have a long-standing primary sexual interest in children but the majority appear not to.
"People using our services often tell us that increased isolation, unemployment, mental health issues, relationship breakdowns and escalating porn habits are key factors contributing to their online offending and have been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Some of the men we work with tell us they had heavy legal adult pornography habits before offending. Many them start watching more risky and illegal content, as they became desensitised to mainstream adult pornography."
For more information about the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, click here.