NCA under fire over graphic images depicting horror of cocaine trade in South America
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been criticised for showing graphic images for a hard-hitting anti-drug campaign to highlight the consequences of cocaine use.
The UK-wide government agency posted graphic images showing the aftermath of a mass killing by a drug cartel in South America as part of its "every line counts" campaign to highlight the realities of life controlled by cocaine producers.
The NCA said the explicit photos showed the true cost of the drug trade around the world and it felt it should not "shy away" from the reality. It also said warnings were issued and age restrictions were in place to prevent children seeing the image.
One image showed a severed head and limbs.
"We recognise this might be an upsetting image, but it's vital to tell the truth about the cocaine trade," the NCA said in its original Facebook post.
In response some criticised the posts for its graphic nature while others praised the agency.
Darren Desmond said: "Brave move posting such graphic imagery. There will be overly sensitive responses, but it's hard hitting and hopefully will force people to think about the impact their habit has."
Later, the NCA added: "We posted some graphic images as a part of this campaign. We're sorry if you found them distressing, but this is the true cost of cocaine."
Ex-police officer and child protection advisor Jim Gamble described the campaign as an "appalling publicity stunt".
He was head of the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre which became part of the NCA following its creation.
He added: "There is nothing wrong with a measured and balanced campaign to shock people, to engage with the story of the human hurt that takes place.
"But there has got to be a respect for human dignity. The severed arms and severed heads being displayed on social media show that they have no respect for the dignity of that man or his family and that they have not considered the impact on others.
He added: "This is a crass campaign which hasn't taken account of the impact it could have and hasn't taken child protection advice."