Child sex convictions 'up 60%'

The number of people convicted of sex offences on children under 16 in England and Wales has increased by nearly 60% in six years, it was reported today.

The BBC said that a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice found that in 2005, 1,363 people were convicted, while in 2010, it was 2,135.

The increase is being attributed to better detection and raised awareness, it said.

Child protection groups say the number is relatively small and it remains an under-reported crime.

The head of strategy and development at children's charity the NSPCC, Lisa Harker, told the BBC: "It's difficult to tell if these figures indicate an increase in the number of sex offences being committed against children.

"It may be that more people - adults and children - are becoming aware of abuse and so are reporting cases to the police and other authorities.

"Nevertheless it's still a relatively small number of convictions considering child sex abuse is a big problem."

The chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), Peter Davies, told the BBC: "It is good news as it's a good indicator that police services and others are getting their act together."

He said authorities did not use conviction numbers as a primary measure of success because it was an under-reported crime and hard to prosecute where there tended to be few witnesses.