Con­cern over rise in in­ter­net sex of­fences

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

Fig­ures ob­tained by the NSPCC show the in­ter­net was used to com­mit 183 child sex of­fences in the Thames Val­ley and thou­sands across Eng­land and Wales.

FOI re­quests to po­lice forces in Eng­land and Wales have re­vealed that more than 5,600 child sex crimes com­mit­ted against chil­dren had an on­line el­e­ment that in­cluded rape, groom­ing, and sex­ual as­sault.

This num­ber has risen by more than a third – 44% – from 2015/16 when re­quests to 39 forces recorded 3,903 cy­ber-re­lated sex­ual of­fences.

The lat­est fig­ures show po­lice are record­ing an av­er­age of 15 in­ter­net-re­lated sex crimes against chil­dren a day, high­light­ing a wor­ry­ing trend in how preda­tors are us­ing the in­ter­net to tar­get chil­dren.

For of­fences where age was recorded, 13 was the most com­mon age of the vic­tim – 257 – but there were nearly 100 of­fences com­mit­ted against chil­dren aged 10 and un­der.

The youngest vic­tim was just three-years-old.

The alarm­ing sta­tis­tics have prompted the NSPCC to call on the next govern­ment to make on­line safety a top pri­or­ity amid warn­ings of in­creased in­ter­net ex­ploita­tion. Their rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude:

An in­de­pen­dent reg­u­la­tor to hold so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies to ac­count and fine them where they fail to pro­tect chil­dren.

Govern­ment to draw up min­i­mum stan­dards that in­ter­net com­pa­nies must meet to safe­guard chil­dren

Chil­dren to be au­to­mat­i­cally of­fered safer so­cial me­dia ac­counts, with de­fault pri­vacy set­tings, to pro­tect them from harm­ful con­tent and of­fend­ers who seek to prey on them.

The NSPCC is also urg- ing po­lice forces to en­sure all of­fi­cers un­der­stand how peo­ple use the web to prey on chil­dren, how to in­ves­ti­gate such crimes, and ef­fec­tively safe­guard vic­tims.

Peter Wan­less, CEO of the NSPCC said: “These fig­ures con­firm our fears that of­fend­ers are ex­ploit­ing the in­ter­net to tar­get chil­dren for their own dark deeds.

“Chil­dren also tell our Childline ser­vice that they are be­ing tar­geted on­line by some adults who pose as chil­dren and try to meet them, or per­suade them to per­form sex­ual acts on we­b­cams, be­fore black­mail­ing them.

“This ter­ri­fies them and can leave some feel­ing worth­less, de­pressed, and sui­ci­dal.”

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