THE number of people in Cheshire seeking help to stop looking at sexual abuse images of children online has risen by 193 per cent.

The figures are in line with a regional increase as between July 2017 and January 2018 1,747 people from the north west contacted Stop it Now! – a child sexual abuse prevention project run by child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation – seeking help for either their own online sexual behaviour, or for that of someone they knew.

In the following six month period that figure had leapt to 3,549 – a rise of 103 per cent.

The dramatic rise in the number of people seeking help from Stop it Now! follows a major public awareness raising campaign launched by Stop it Now! in January this year.

The campaign was supported by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and police forces across the country including Cheshire.

Assistant chief constable Alan Barr, from the crime unit, said: “The problem of viewing indecent images of children online has grown exponentially in recent years.

"Technological advancements, increased accessibility, and the presumption of anonymity have all led to more and more people viewing and sharing illegal images.

“Every time a sexual image of a child is viewed, that child is re-victimised and further demand is created.

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

Detective onspector Stuart York from Cheshire Constabulary’s strategic public protection directorate added: "Safeguarding and protecting children from sexual abuse is a priority for Cheshire Constabulary.

"We are committed to seeking out individuals who abuse children through online activity, to bring them to justice and hold them to account for their actions.

"We are very pleased with the success of the Stop It Now! campaign which has seen an increase of nearly 200 per cent of people seeking help about their online viewing habits in Cheshire."