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Child sex offences soar by a third to record levels
09 Mar 2016

<b><i>Peter Wanless: This rise is 'deeply<br>worrying'</b></i>
Peter Wanless: This rise is 'deeply
worrying'
The number of child sex offences reported to police reached an all-time high last year as 124 reports were made every day.

A freedom of information request by the NSPCC has revealed that police were told about 45,456 cases of child sexual abuse in 2015, averaging out at more than five every hour.

In England and Wales, levels rose by almost a third from 31,238 to 41,457 – nearly four fifths of whom were female.

Just under 11,000 children abused across the two countries were less than ten years old, and 2,409 were too young to have even started school.

These figures do not even encapsulate the whole picture – another NSPCC report recently found that children who report sexual abuse are often not believed.

This comes just weeks after Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report that found not enough is being done to protect children from abuse.

NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: "This dramatic rise is deeply worrying and shows just how extensive this appalling crime has become, claiming many victims every day, every hour.

"Sexual abuse can shatter a child’s mental health. It can leave them anxious, depressed and even suicidal.

"That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn how to handle disturbing emotions and behaviours and rebuild their lives."

On February 10, the charity launched the 'It's Time' campaign, which is calling on the Government to both increase and ring-fence the funding made available to support services.

It also demands that the mental health of child sex abuse survivors is made a priority, so they can "start to recover".

On the reason the figures from Scotland were so much lower than those in England and Wales, Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, Police Scotland’s lead for Public Protection said: "We are aware that many children, for a whole host of reasons, may not initially disclose they have been abused and the true extent of child sexual abuse taking place in Scotland now is unknown.

"Police Scotland supports the excellent work of the NSPCC. We are aware of the Norwegian Barnehus model and similar models in other countries, such as Young Witness Advocacy Centres in England.

"Police Scotland would support the development of a child centred Scottish model that would meet the needs of children in all communities across the country and we are fully involved with the ongoing Evidence and Procedure Review in Scotland which is considering children and vulnerable witnesses."

She added: “Keeping children safe is our priority and we are committed to working with partners nationally, locally and with support services, including the NSPCC, to primarily prevent children being abused and neglected; to improve child protection services and to ensure appropriate support is available.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, called these figures "another reminder of the shocking scale of child sexual abuse."

He added: “Changes in police recording and victims’ improved confidence in how the police will deal with abuse have played a significant part in the increase in reports to us. But I am now starting work with academics to consider whether more children are actually being abused.

"The internet has opened up new opportunities for abusers to groom children, view indecent images and watch and direct live sexual abuse of children and we need to understand the impact of this.

“Police have improved our response to sexual abuse and every single day we are safeguarding children at risk, investigating offences and bringing abusers to court, however, by the time the report comes to us the damage is done so colleagues working in social care, education and health need to work together to stop abuse before it happens.

"Police work will continue but we ask everyone to help us by being alert to signs of abuse and sharing any concerns however small they may seem.”

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