THE number of people who contacted a helpline because of fears over their sexual attraction to children more than doubled last year.

Child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs a helpline called Stop It Now for people worried about their inappropriate thoughts, feelings or behaviours to people who are underage.

Last year, a total of 1,604 people in Essex contacted the helpline and self-help website to address their issues with viewing indecent images of children on behalf of themselves or someone close to them.

This is up from 735 people who made contact in 2019.

The confidential helpline and website aims to help people understand what triggers their illegal behaviour and help them access appropriate support.

Helpline advisors also explore with callers the possibility of any direct risks to children, including in the caller’s own family, to ensure these children are protected.

Calls remain confidential and anonymous, unless identifying details are given and a child is at risk of harm or a crime has been committed.

Helpline director Donald Findlater said some people viewing the images needed it confirmed what they do is illegal.

“Most are adults, but a significant proportion are teenagers,” he said.

“Many of these men started viewing this illegal material as part of their adult pornography habit, somehow not noticing or perhaps caring that these were images of children being abused.

“Some don’t know the law and need it spelling out.

“A few are struggling with a long-standing sexual interest in children and think that looking at ‘only pictures’ is a way of containing that interest.

“Whoever they are, they need to know this behaviour is illegal, children are harmed by it, serious consequences await those involved in it but our helpline and website give anonymous, and confidential support and advice to stop and stay stopped.

“Friends, family and colleagues need to know this too - so they notice and do something.”

Anyone needing the helpline should call 0808 1000 900.