More and more people in the South West are accessing an online service to help them stop viewing child pornography.

Stop it Now! is a child sexual abuse prevention project run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.

In the last year, the number of people accessing the service has increased by nearly a third (28 percent).

The service offers online self-help resources for people trying to change either their own online sexual behaviour or that of someone they know.

Director of the Stop it Now! Helpline, Donald Findlater, said: “We’re delighted with the success of the campaign so far, with over 200 people from the South West seeking help with online sexual behaviour towards children every month. Mostly these are men wanting help to stop viewing sexual images of children. But a growing number of wives, partners and parents are getting in contact because of concerns about the online sexual behaviour of someone they love.

“But there will be hundreds more people in the South-West continuing to view sexual images of children online. Just as there are thousands more wives, partners and parents who are, or who should be, worried about the online behaviour of someone they love.

“People engaged in this behaviour need to be clear that sexual images of children are illegal, that children are harmed when they are made, and also every time they are viewed. Offenders put at risk everything they take for granted or have worked hard to achieve – family, friends, work, their liberty.

"The Stop it Now! Helpline offers them a confidential place to get help so their illegal online behaviour stops and stays stopped. Getting help takes just a phone call.”

Stop it Now! also launched a public awareness campaign in February which was supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU), and police forces in Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

The campaign raised public awareness of the growing problem of people viewing and sharing sexually explicit images of under 18s online, educating those offending about the harm caused to children involved in the production of these images.

It also highlighted the increase in police activity in the South West focused on tackling this issue and aimed to drive home the consequences of offenders' behaviour including the possibility of arrest, imprisonment, break up of family and being put on the Sex Offenders Register.

As well as pointing out the consequences of such activity, the campaign also made offenders aware that there is help available to change their behaviour.

The SW ROCU also coordinated a major conference in Taunton in May, bringing together police, social workers, local authorities and other frontline child safeguarding professionals to discuss strategies for further deterrence and prevention work across the region.

Regional Lead for Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Assistant Chief Constable Damian Kearney, said: “Every time a sexual image of a child is viewed, that child is re-victimised and further demand is created.

"It is vital, then, that we work closely with partners and use all available resources to protect children and, wherever possible, prevent offending.

“The number of people accessing help, whether for themselves or someone they know, shows the value of services like Stop it Now! in helping people to stop their behaviour.”