Potential Scottish paedophiles tempted to look at indecent images of children online have been visiting a special website to help them change their behaviour.
More than 1,500 people from Scotland visited the Stop it Now! Get Help website last year for help to stop either their own viewing of online sexual images of children, or that of a loved one.
Over the same 12-month period, a further 78 men from Scotland called the Stop it Now! phoneline to get help to stop viewing sexual images of children online.
Run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the website and helpline offer self-help tools and resources to help users address their behaviour and stop looking at online sexual images of children.
It also provides information and support to partners and friends of people arrested for, or suspected of, accessing online child abuse images.
John Hawkins, Assistant Chief Constable for Scotland, said: “Police Scotland is determined to work with our statutory partners, with support services and importantly with our communities to do all we can to eliminate child sexual abuse.
“Changing offender behaviour is a vitally important element of this work. ‘Stop it Now’ provides abusers and potential abusers troubled by their sexual thoughts regarding children access to support. In turn this can help them to manage their thoughts and behaviour.
“Vitally, the service also provides other adults with advice and support when they have concerns about the online behaviour of others. I would encourage anyone who has sexual thoughts regarding children to contact ‘Stop it Now’ – child sexual abuse is preventable.”
The 78 calls from Scotland to the charity’s Edinburgh office make up five per cent of the 1,504 calls received from across the UK in 2016.
A further 28 adults, mainly wives or parents, also called to express their concerns about the online behaviour of another adult.
The figures come at a time when the police are reporting an escalation, across the UK, in online viewing and sharing of child abuse images.
In 2013 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) estimated that as many as 50,000 individuals in the UK were involved in downloading or sharing sexual images of children .
But in a BBC television interview in October 2016 Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs Council lead for child protection, said that at least 100,000 people in the UK were now regularly viewing online sexual images of children.
Stuart Allardyce, Stop it Now! Scotland director, said: “Stop it Now! Scotland has worked with hundreds of men arrested for viewing sexual images of children.
“For many, being arrested was a real wake-up call. Many knew what they were doing was wrong, but struggled to change their behaviour on their own. That’s where our work comes in.
“We make sure these men understand the harm they have caused the children in these images, and also the serious consequences for them and their families if they don’t get to grips with their online behaviour. Once they understand this, they become far less likely to reoffend.”