Police get new powers to arrest online groomers
Police have recorded a 69% rise in abusers in Kent meeting children after grooming them online in the last five years.
The figures came as officers on Monday were given new powers to stop those who prey on children for sexual gratification.
A law was created in 2015 making it illegal to send sexual messages to children, following the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign.
But the government failed to bring it into force in England and Wales, preventing police from arresting groomers until they met their victim or sexually abused them.
Police recorded 22 offences of meeting a child following sexual grooming in Kent in 2015-2016.
This was up from 13 in 201112, according to Home Office figures.
From Monday, online grooming is a crime in England and Wales, meaning police will be able to arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Since 2010 more than 1,500 offences of grooming have been recorded by police in Scotland alone. The NSPCC had lobbied the government for three years to bring in the anti-grooming law.
The charity’s chief executive, Peter Wanless, said: “The Justice Secretary has done the right thing. This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign. It is a victory for common sense.
“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wher- ever they are in the UK. This law will give police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts.”