A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “We will be clarifying the law and explaining why viewing sexual images of anyone under 18 is a serious crime.
“We will highlight the real harm caused to the children who appear in these images.
“We will also drive home the consequences of their behaviour to offenders – including arrest, imprisonment, break up of family, loss of job, loss of friends and being put on the sex offenders register.
“We will be directing people who look at indecent images of children to confidential and anonymous help from the organisation Stop It Now.”
Detective Sergeant Julia Baker is from the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT).
She said, “If you are making, viewing, taking or distributing sexual images of children, we want to educate you on the facts. Being caught will come with many consequences, not just the possibility of going to prison.
“There are some myths out there and believing them could lose you everything. There are no excuses.
“ Offenders tell us they didn’t know it was illegal, it was an accident, they are not a paedophile, or even that it was a ‘joke’.
“This is no defence in court and will not save you from losing your friends, family and job.”
DS Baker wanted to stress that this is by no means a victimless crime.
She added: “Some offenders think they are doing no direct harm to children - this is so very far from the truth.
“The children in these pictures are victims of sexual assault. They are coerced and manipulated into it. They often feel worthless and powerless and this abuse can affect them for the rest of their lives.
“Even if you are ‘just looking’ you are creating a market for these abhorrent images and you are perpetuating the sexual abuse of children.”
Alongside the online campaign, Lincolnshire Police will also be distributing posters to work places across the County.
The posters will spell out the consequences to offenders and signpost them to help to stop now, before it’s too late.
What are ‘indecent images of a children’?
A sexual image of a child (anyone under the age of 18) may include:
• Nude or partially clothed children
• Children sexually posing
• Self-generated images by children (‘selfies’)
• Images depicting children engaging in both penetrative and non-penetrative sexual activity
This definition applies to still images, videos and pseudo-photographs (an image which appears to be a photograph and that may have been created by a computer).
Types of offence
There are four main offences relating to the access of sexual images of children:
• Possession - Having, in your possession, a sexual image of anyone under the age of 18, whether it be a hard copy or an electronic copy.
• Distribution - The sending of a sexual image of a child, to another person. It includes distribution through chat rooms, email, phone applications, text messaging, USB sticks and file sharing websites (peer-to-peer). If we find evidence of intent to distribute, even if you haven’t done so, it is possible to be charged for distribution.
• Making - Making an electronic copy of a sexual image of a child. This includes copies of images that are purposefully saved by a user on to a device and the automatic copy saved to a device when an image is clicked on. In addition, it includes images automatically downloaded from file sharing websites.
• Taking - Taking your own sexual images of a child.
Many people who have accessed sexual images of children believe that there is a ‘grey area’, between material that is legal and material that is illegal.
We believe that there is no grey area. Here it is in black and white:
• Non-sexual images of children: If you are viewing any image of a child for sexual gratification, regardless of whether the child is nude, semi-nude or clothed, then this is not appropriate. The police may investigate the possession of multiple images of clothed children.
• Nude images of children on naturist websites: If you are viewing any image of a child for sexual gratification, then this is not appropriate. If the naturist images are showing nude children in a sexualised manner, then this is illegal.
• Uncertainty about age: If you are unsure whether a person in a sexual image is a child or an adult, do not view the image. If there is ANY DOUBT, do not access the images.
• The legal age of consent is 16: However the legal age for a person to be in a sexual image is 18. Regardless of your opinion about this and regardless of whether you understood this to be the case in the past, you now know, so abide by the law.
• The images are legal in their country of origin: Different countries have varying laws with regards to what age a person has to be to be shown in a sexual image.
However, it is still illegal to access these images from the UK. Sexual drawings/Manga: Sexual drawings of children are also illegal in the UK. Manga is a style of drawing for comic books and novels, which originates from Japan. There are many Manga drawings depicting children in sexual situations. These are illegal to view in the UK.
• I’m not a UK citizen: Any access to sexual images of children from within the UK, is illegal, regardless of where you are from.
If you have information about anyone you believe possesses, distributes, makes or takes indecent images of children call us on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 111 555.
For confidential support to stop visit Stop it Now or call 0808 1000 900. You can also call for advice if you have concerns about the behaviour of someone you know.
• To find out more, visit www.lincs.police.uk/reporting-advice/child-sexual-exploitation-cse-online-grooming