‘It’s easy to avoid seeing the child as real victim’ – convicted paedophile speaks out
As child sex crime soars in Surrey, one convicted offender reveals what led him to offend in a bid to persuade others to seek support
Ben, who is in his mid 30s, had a “good” job when he was caught viewing indecent images of children.
A strained relationship, anonymous conversations with men online and a Skype exchange led him to view a number of vile images which ultimately left him in prison, unemployed and without friends.
The convicted paedophile says internet chat rooms and the anonymous nature of the web are fuelling a rise in child sex crime across Surrey.
His remarks come as new figures show a rise in the number of people seeking help in the county.
Child protection charity the Lucy Faithful Foundation says calls to its helpline and use of its website over the past two years by people asking for advice to stop them offending have increased by 81% year-on-year in Surrey.
Now Ben, one of the men the charity has helped, has spoken of what led him to offend.
He said: “I was arrested almost a year after first viewing a number of indecent images following various online chats with other men, which led to a user sending me a selection of images over Skype. I spent seven months in prison, lost my job and lots of friends because of what I’d done.
“At the time I was working in London and travelling abroad for work a lot, putting strain on my relationship due to our very different work schedules, resulting in us not spending time together day-to-day.
“My contact with indecent images came via another chat user. I never thought about child images before but when presented with them I engaged and viewed them.
‘The online world can feel very alien to reality and abnormal standards of behaviour became distorted.’
“I felt conflicted when I viewed the imagery; I was aware of the damage on victims but there was also a sense that as the images already existed, I was somewhat unconnected.
“It’s easy to avoid seeing the child in the picture as a real victim being harmed. I did feel guilty about the whole thing but I still chose to engage and view all the images I had access to.
“The online world can feel very alien to reality and abnormal standards of behaviour certainly became distorted. It’s easy to think you’re anonymous online.”
Ben says he now feels “completely changed” after ringing the helpline every day, but other offenders are condemned by society without getting the help they need.
“If there was more support to change people’s behaviour, much like the support I was lucky to get, I think this huge problem could begin to be halted,” he said.
Child sex crime soaring in Surrey
The number of people reported to Surrey Police for possessing indecent images of children and other obscene material is soaring.
The force logged 490 incidents in 2017/18 – an increase of 63% compared to the 300 incidents recorded in 2016/17.
Material that comes under the obscene publications category includes indecent images of children and bestiality.
The rise in Surrey reflects a national trend.
In 2017/18 police recorded a 25% increase in obscene publications.
Some 22,950 incidents were recorded in England and Wales, compared to 18,304 in 2016/17.
The police force that recorded the highest number of offences – 1,946 – was London’s Metropolitan Police, where the figure rose by 73% in a single year.
Other police force areas with a high volume of obscene publication offences were West Yorkshire (1,345), Hampshire (1,254), and Kent (1,212).
The increase may be to do with greater investment towards catching offenders.
A Government spokesman said: “We have nearly doubled the National Crime Agency’s capabilities with a further £20 million until 2020 to investigate these heinous crimes and the use of indecent imagery.
“This is leading to around 400 arrests each month and safeguarding around 500 children.”
The Lucy Faithful Foundation has now joined forces with Surrey Police to tackle would-be offenders before they commit crimes through its Stop It Now! campaign.
Jon Savell, temporary assistant chief constable for Surrey Police, said: “I think it’s really important that we support the Stop It Now! Campaign, which highlights just how serious an offence downloading or sharing indecent images of children online is.
“By helping people address their online behaviour, deterring them from viewing abusive images of those under the age of 18, the campaign will assist in protecting children from harm, which is an absolute priority for us. The campaign also offers advice and support for people who suspect, or know of, others who are accessing indecent images of children online.
“We have a specialist Paedophile Online Investigation Team that will continue to pursue and deal robustly with offenders of this serious offence.”
Donald Findlater, director of the Stop It Now! helpline, said: “Too many people, especially men across all age groups, seem to think it is okay to view sexual images of under 18s online. It is not. Not only is it illegal, it also causes great harm.
“Every offender who stops, stops harming children. Our specialist staff have helped thousands of people over recent years. We’ve also helped thousands more family members come to terms with the fact that someone they know and love has engaged in this behaviour, getting them help to tackle the problem.”
To contact Stop It Now! call 08081 000900 or visit www.stopitnow.org.uk