Online child sex offences rise in West Midlands but fall in Staffordshire
The number of online child sex offences logged in the West Midlands has increased in the last year, new figures reveal.
In the West Midlands Police force area, 427 offences were logged in 2019/2020 – a seven per cent rise from 398 in 2018/2019.
In neighbouring West Mercia, which covers Wyre Forest, there were 389 offences recorded in the last year – a 104 per cent rise from 191 offences in 2018/2019.
However, in the Staffordshire Police area, there was a six per cent decrease – from 346 in 2018/2019 to 325 in 2019/2020.
The data, obtained by the NSPCC, reveals 10,391 crimes were recorded by all 46 forces across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands for 2019/2020 – the first time the figure has passed the 10,000 mark. Nationally, the offences also increased by 16 per cent from the previous year where data from police forces is available and includes crimes that had a cyber element.
It takes the total number of recorded offences in the five years since it became mandatory to record whether a crime involved the internet to more than 37,000, which includes 7,190 offences logged by police forces in the Midlands.
While the Freedom of Information data does not include the lockdown period, risks to children online increased and Childline counselling sessions for grooming went up.
The NSPCC says this highlights the urgent need for the Government to push forward with the Online Harms Bill, which would place a legal Duty of Care on tech firms to protect children, enforced by an independent regulator.
The charity is calling on the Government to publish its final plans before the end of the year – and get an Online Harms Bill on the statute book by the end of 2021. Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy, said: “These figures suggest online abuse was already rising before lockdown, and the risks to children appear to have spiked significantly since.
“It is now almost 17 months since the Government’s original proposals for social media regulation were published and children continue to face preventable harm online.
“At the Hidden Harms Summit, the Prime Minister signalled he was determined to act. That’s why he needs to prioritise making progress on a comprehensive Online Harms Bill this Autumn, and pass legislation by the end of 2021.”
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