'Dramatic rise' in child sex offences as victims' lives 'shattered' by predators
PUBLISHED: 17:29 08 March 2018
'Abhorrent' sex offences against children, which 'shatter a child's life', have hit record levels in Avon and Somerset, with one child abused every six hours.
A shocking 1,483 incidents of child sex offences were recorded by Avon and Somerset Constabulary from April 2016 to March 2017, an increase by almost half on the previous year.
Children’s welfare charity the NSPCC has labelled the ‘dramatic rise’ as ‘extremely concerning’.
The data was unearthed by a freedom of information request by the charity, which revealed a 43 per cent spike in child sex offences in Avon and Somerset.
Almost 350 offences, including rape and sexual assault, were recorded where the victim was aged 10 or younger – with 10 babies targeted by predators before their first birthday.
One in 20 incidents included an ‘online element’, and the NSPCC believes the figures may not be an accurate reflection of the true extent of the crimes, with many youngsters not coming forward due to fear, embarrassment, or not understanding the abuse.
It suggests online groomers are ‘becoming a significant problem with predators able to reach hundreds of children’. The NSPCC also believes the rise can be attributed to better police recording methods and growing confidence among victims following high-profile cases.
Sharon Copsey, NSPCC head of service for the South West, said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.
“These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal.
“That is why it is crucial every child who has endured abuse and needs support must get help so to learn to rebuild their lives.
“These figures suggest police are making real progress in how they investigate these offences.”
Police Superintendent Will White said increased victim confidence and awareness of child sex offences have contributed to the figures.
He added: “The way these types of crimes are recorded has also dramatically improved meaning we are unearthing a more accurate picture. If we want to stamp out abuse we first need to understand its scale and prevalence. This is a journey and is not something which can be explained by solely analysing simple performance statistics.”