The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC, have released a new report on how child abusers are grooming their victims online.
The NSPCC asked police forces across the country to identify abuse cases where the first contact was made online. The charity found that almost 100 Leicestershire children or young people were sexually abused by offenders who they met, and groomed them online.
The NSPCC asked 44 police forces across England and Wales how many offences with recorded where the victim was under 18 years old between April, 2015 and March, 2016, where online grooming had been a factor.
In Leicestershire, there was 97 offences, and from the other police forces there was approximately 3,100 offences. The cases in Leicestershire included rape, inciting children to perform sexual acts live on web cam and other serious sexual offences. 23 of the victims were aged 15 years old. 16 victims were aged 14 years old, and 15 victims were aged 13 years old.
The police are now required to record / cyber flag any sexual crime against a child that involves the internet. These figures have been taken from the NSPCC as they have launched their How Safe Are Our Children? report.
The NSPCC are urging police forces to ensure that their officers fully understand when to apply the cyber-flag to sex crimes, to enable them to record and investigate the crimes more effectively.
Sandra McNair, NSPCC Midlands head of service, said: “These figures confirm our fears that the online world is playing a significant role in the sexual abuse of children in the UK. It’s clear that a large volume of sexual assaults and rapes of children have involved the use of the internet – for example by grooming victims before abusing them offline, or live-streaming the abuse. We know grooming is on the rise because children are increasingly telling our ChildLine service how they are being targeted online. Predatory adults posing as children try to meet them or blackmail them into meeting up or performing sexual acts on webcams, which obviously terrifies them and can leave some feeling suicidal. By revealing this first year of data we hope to highlight how police are under increasing pressure to cope with online offences so we have to ensure they have the resources and training to make them fit for tackling crime in the 21st century.”
A small number of the forces asked, said they were either not using or did not know about the cyber-flag requirement. It was introduced by the Home Office at the beginning of April, 2015, to get a better understanding of the extent of online offences.