POLICE in Scotland will today launch a new campaign against perpetrators of online child sex abuse, following the release of figures showing nearly 1600 crimes were committed in Scotland in just 10 months.

The figures, recorded by Police Scotland, were taken from between last April and February this year, and are made up of instances when an individual communicated with a child for sexual purposes. Police investigations resulted in the detection of nearly 70% of the offences with the perpetrators arrested and charged.

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Of the 1600 crimes, 98 were reports of grooming or attempting to groom children for sexual purposes, 90% of which were detected.

Now police chiefs have warned that anyone who tries to engage with kids for sexual purposes will be caught and have to face the consequences.

The campaign has been developed with the help of Stop It Now! Scotland after research that shows the biggest fear of perpetrators is that their families will find out and they will face public exposure.

“Perpetrators of online child abuse are single minded and target children using messaging apps,” said Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, lead for Crime and Protection at Police Scotland.

“This includes crimes of grooming children for sexual purposes, indecently communicating with children and causing children to participate in sexual activity.

“Offenders come from all walks of life, all age groups and are predominantly men. Some may not see children as victims, they may not see themselves as abusers. Most don’t believe they will get caught.”

She said the police use a range of techniques to identify perpetrators and catch the vast majority of those who engage with children for sexual purposes and who groom or attempt to groom.

“They will face the consequences of their actions, their families will find out and they will face public exposure,” she warned.

“Our message to offenders or people who think they might offend is get help. Support is out there and Stop It Now! can provide help and advice if you are in danger of offending, or if you have offended. What you are doing is wrong, you will be caught and you risk losing everything.”

Stuart Allardyce, national manager of Stop It Now! Scotland said their work with people who have committed online offences showed that many knew what they were doing was wrong but didn’t know how to stop. He warned their families would suffer if they were caught.

“This campaign seeks to drive home the message that the online grooming of children and young people is illegal and causes huge harm to the victims,” he said.

“There are no grey areas – whether it is sexual conversations with young people online, an attempt to solicit sexual images from them or trying to meet up. All of these things are illegal.

“Our message is clear – get help whether you are already doing these things, or are having thoughts about it. Stop It Now! Scotland is here to help.”

He added: “The long-lasting hurt caused to the families of offenders is often underestimated. We often work with wives and children of offenders who are devastated by the actions of their loved ones.”

Those calling Stop It Now! Scotland do not need to give names or any personal details.

“You will be treated with respect regardless of any crimes committed. Confidential and anonymous help is only a phone call away,” said Allardyce.
The £30,000 #StopItNow campaign will run for four weeks and will include adverts across social media channels, as well as outdoor ads on telephone kiosks.