Paedophiles targeting children as young as one online, NSPCC says

Internet-related sex crimes are on the rise, NSPCC report reveals

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 21 June 2016 08:36 BST
'Online world playing significant role'' in child abuse, NSPCC chief says
'Online world playing significant role'' in child abuse, NSPCC chief says (iStockphoto)

Paedophiles are using the internet to commit an average of eight sex crimes a day and are targeting children as young as one, a report by children’s charity the NSPCC reveals.

There were 3,186 sex crimes against children in England and Wales in 2015/16 in which the internet was the means used by paedophiles to contact or view children, according to the report.

The figures include more than 100 rapes, as well as cases of live streaming of abuse, and grooming.

Children aged 13 were at greatest risk, the study found, with 535 victims reported, but 272 crimes were recorded against children under 10, and a one-year-old baby was also a victim.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, 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."

The figures come from a Freedom of Information request by the charity for its annual How Safe are our Children report.

Of the 42 police forces across England and Wales, 38 provided figures detailing online abuse.

It is the first year police forces have been required to record sex crimes in which the internet played a role.

The NSPCC said that a small number of police forces were not recording the data, while others were recording low numbers of cyber-enabled sex crimes. In comparison, other police forces recorded hundreds of incidents of this type.

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said the figures were "concerning" and likely to be "just the tip of the iceberg".

She said: "Children rarely tell someone that they are being abused - often through fear of the consequences or because they cannot put their experiences into words.

"Successful police operations show that online sexual offenders use sophisticated methods to target, trick and groom children, and may target hundreds of children at a time."

She added: "The internet is increasingly integral to children's lives and they need to be educated about the risks, as well as how to report suspicious behaviour."

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