'Safeguarding young people is everyone's business' PCC Sue Mountstevens says as child sex offences double in three years
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 July 2017
Reported cases of child abuse have almost doubled in the past three years, Avon and Somerset Constabulary has revealed.
The number of reports of child sex offences has risen over the past three and a half years, with the police receiving more than 3,528 calls between 2014 and May 1, 2017.
In 2014, 829 offences were recorded by the police – a figure which almost doubled in 2016, with 1,215 cases reported.
While there is no explanation for the rise, the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens has said police need to do ‘all they can’ to prevent the ‘exploitation and abuse from happening’.
She added: “Sexually-exploited children suffer adverse consequences which blight their lives.”
Of the 439 cases which have been reported between January and May this year, only 18 have led to people being charged and PCC Mountstevens has said this could be down to a lack of evidence or victim vulnerability.
She added: “Sadly, I have listened to many sexual abuse victims who tell me about their traumatic and testing time at court.
“We need to do all we can to make sure young, vulnerable witnesses have access to specialists who can appropriately guide and support them through the court process.
“Making sure trained judges deal with the most complex of cases, particularly those involving vulnerable young victims and multiple defendants, is vitally important.”
The PCC’s office has been working with the police and its wider partners to raise awareness about the ‘terrible’ crime so members of the community can learn how to recognise the signs.
PCC Mountstevens added: “Let’s be clear, child sexual exploitation is happening. Any child can be targeted and those who are, can experience deep psychological and emotional damage.
“Safeguarding our young people is everyone’s business and together we can prevent child sexual exploitation from happening.
“Working together we can tackle this heinous crime, support our vulnerable children and allow them to live free from exploitation and abuse.”
If you suspect a child is being sexually exploited, contact 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.