Sex abuse offences against children on the increase

Police are recording 85 child sex crimes every day after a dramatic spike in reports of abuse, new figures reveal.

In South Yorkshire, there were 952 sex offences against children recorded last year, there were 510 in Derbyshire, 505 in Nottinghamshire and 768 in Humberside, research by the NSPCC found.

The NSPCC helpline received around 140 contacts from people across the South Yorkshire about sexual abuse last year, over 90 of which were deemed so serious that they were referred immediately to the police or children’s services.

A Government spokeswoman said children must be protected from ‘systemic and appalling cases’ of abuse such as those seen in Rotherham, where 1,400 girls were found to have been abused between 1997 and 2013.

A total of 31,238 allegations of sexual offences against children, including rape and assault, were made nationally - an increase of more than a third compared to the previous year.

The majority of the victims were aged between 12 and 16 but more than one in four - 8,282 - were younger than 11, the charity said.

Of those, 2,895 are estimated to be aged five or under, including 94 babies.

More than three quarters of the reported abuse cases were against girls - 24,457 offences.

The data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, reveals a significant year-on-year increase in the number of sex offences against children.

The year before the same research showed that a total of 22,654 sex crimes against children were recorded by 41 police forces. All 43 forces in England and Wales responded in the latest study.

The NSPCC said that until now the total had largely remained steady and the 38 per cent rise was the biggest increase in six years of requesting the figures.

Since 200 the number has risen by almost 50 per cent.

Peter Wanless, the charity’s chief executive, said: “These figures are disturbing and clearly illustrate child sexual abuse is a continuing and widespread problem that needs urgent action.

“But we know this is still only a fraction of the true number of victims because some endure an agonising wait of many years before telling anyone - and others never reveal what has happened to them.

“It’s time to throw down the gauntlet to government which has to ensure all sexual abuse victims get specialist treatment to help them recover. By the end of this current Parliament there should be no children living in the shadow of abuse.”

The statistics are the latest in a slew of recent findings indicating a spike in the number of abuse cases being reported and follow a trend that started in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal in 2012.

Analysts have suggested that publicity surrounding high profile cases has increased awareness and in turn given more victims the courage to come forward. Improved recording methods by police has also been cited as a possible factor.

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “South Yorkshire Police is committed to preventing child abuse and to apprehending those responsible for the sexual exploitation of children and holding them to account for their appalling crimes.

“We treat all sexual offences with the utmost sensitivity and would urge anyone who has concerns about a child or who wishes to report sexual abuse to come forward.

“We want to encourage and empower victims to come forward to report the dreadful crimes committed against them in the confidence that they will be listened to, they will be taken seriously, and that support and care is available.

“The protection and safeguarding of children requires effective multi-agency working on a local and national level. In South Yorkshire, we work closely with our local authorities, health agencies, charities and a wide range of other organisations to ensure a comprehensive response to child sexual abuse.”

Superintendent Dave Hall, from Humberside Police, said: “In line with national figures, Humberside has seen an increase in the number of recorded sex offences against children.

“All reports are taken seriously and victims coming forward to report such matters to us can expect a professional response and will be treated with sensitivity and respect.

“Along with our partners in education, health services, local government and support organisations, we are working hard to deal with the challenges presented in recognising and dealing with vulnerable young victims.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “Children must be protected from the systemic and appalling cases of abuse we have seen in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and elsewhere.

“That is why the Prime Minister hosted a Downing Street summit earlier this year to launch a package of new measures to better protect victims and survivors, bring more offenders to justice and ensure that those who are charged with protecting our children are held properly accountable.

“We have given child sexual abuse the status of a national threat so that it is prioritised by every police force, will shortly launch a new child sexual abuse taskforce and centre of expertise to improve local responses and we have provided £7 million funding to organisations that support victims.

“It is encouraging that police figures show more victims are having the confidence to come forward and report these often ignored and under-reported crimes.”