Child sexual abuse image crimes in Cumbria have surged by 20 per cent in the past year, according to new figures from the NSPCC.

Over the last six years, the county has seen a 68 per cent increase in such incidents, with police recording a total of 1,625 instances of image collection and distribution.

371 incidents of the crime were recorded in 2022/23. 

The platform Snapchat was flagged in almost half of the 33,000 incidents recorded across the UK last year.

Detective Inspector Fiona Gray, who heads up Cumbria's Cyber and Digital Crime Unit, emphasised the gravity and human toll of the crime.

“Viewing images of child abuse online is an abhorrent crime," she said.

“Behind every image is a real child who is suffering devastating sexual abuse. Viewing images fuels demand for the actual abuse.

“We are committed to targeting individuals who make, view and share child sexual abuse images, as well as those who communicate inappropriately with children online.

“We will do our upmost to ensure such offenders are brought to justice.”

In March 2023, figures from the charity The Stop it Now! charity revealed that nearly 4,000 people in Cumbria sought advice or support about their own or a loved one’s online sexual behaviour towards children in the past 12 months.

“If you haven’t been caught already, it doesn’t mean you won’t,” DI Gray said.

“Law enforcement is constantly developing detection methods to identify those who offend online and the consequences for you, your family and friends are significant.

“You could lose your job, your family, face imprisonment – and be registered as a sex offender.

“But help is available and change is possible. It is never too late to seek help.

“Anyone worried about their own or a loved one’s online behaviour should seek support from the Stop It Now! helpline at 0808 1000 900 or via

Cumbria Police have also warned that 'sextortion', a form of online sexual blackmail, is becoming increasingly prevalent, particularly amongst teenagers.

This violation usually starts with the perpetrator making contact on social networks or messaging platforms, feigning to be peer-aged to earn trust and strike a rapport.

The conversations that follow get sexualised, leading to the offender requesting intimate images or videos, which are then used to extort the victim into providing more images or money, with threats of exposure to family and friends.

Police urged victims of 'sextortion' to contact them immediately, and encouraged parents to communicate openly and honestly with their children about their online activities.

"We would urge parents and carers to have regular open and honest discussions with their children about their digital lives.

“These conversations need to be as normalised as those about drugs and road safety.

“Having an open channel of communication will prevent victimisation and enable young people to seek support and advice at an early stage if they feel unsafe online," she said. 

The NSPCC said the figures show the need for swift and ambitious action by tech companies to address what is currently happening on their platforms and for Ofcom to significantly strengthen its approach to tackling child sexual abuse through effective enforcement of the Online Safety Act.

What should you do if you or your child has been the victim of sextortion?

  • Report the matter to police as soon as possible.
  • Don’t pay any money or agree to other demands, such as providing further images.
  • Do not communicate with the perpetrator any further.
  • Keep all communications and record any evidence as soon as possible via screen capture.
  • If money has already been sent, report this to your banking provider immediately.