Updated: Mar 20
As a Probation Officer I dealt with some pretty challenging behaviours, including murders and sexual offences. I worked in several prisons, including Wakefield's high security prison that houses people who have committed some of the most distressing and notorious offences. I was known for working with the resettlement back into society of life sentence prisoners, including serious sexual offenders. Yet, the most personally harrowing and difficult thing I ever had to do as a Probation Officer was to read the brief Crown Prosecution descriptions of indecent images of children. As a parent of two young children myself, it was a place in my head that I just couldn't go to.
At Safer Lives we work with men who have accessed and possibly shared these images and videos, and after arrest most are very ashamed of their own actions. Frequently they will adjust the accounts of their behaviours because it is just too shameful for them to admit to themselves and others just what they have been doing. It can sometimes be too easy when you get to know clients such as these, to nod to these sanitised narratives without considering what harms have come to children to enable the client to access these images. Indecent images and videos are the recordings of children's abuse and exploitation, from the most vulnerable moments of their lives. The children, perhaps now adults, will know that the images will be continuously shared and accessed online and, from their own accounts, this is very much a secondary trauma that can never be overcome or undone.
Clients often speak about the high level of professionalism and even kindness that investigating Police Officers show towards them. This is even more remarkable when we think about how Police employees have to watch and wade through this distressing material as part of their investigations, to establish exactly what suspects have on their devices, and often to identify and safeguard children in images not previously encountered by law enfrorcement agencies. At a time when The Metropilitan Police in particular are under considerable criticism and scrutiny, this link (below) to an article first seen in the Sunday Times is a testament to the true character and dedication of Police Officers and staff working to protect our children from physical and online sexual harms. We thank them for this valuable work. It's not a job many of us could do.