Child grooming offences soar in Suffolk and Essex under new law

Child grooming reports soar in Suffolk and Essex according to new stats. Child pictured is a model.

Child grooming reports soar in Suffolk and Essex according to new stats. Child pictured is a model. Picture: NSPCC - Credit: Archant

Newly-released statistics which were gathered by the NSPCC show that Suffolk Constabulary received 76 reports of sexual communication with a child in the 2018-19 financial year, up 46% on the previous year.

During the same period, 166 crimes were reported to Essex police, skyrocketing 177% from the 2017/18 figures.

Sexual communication with a child became a crime in 2017 meaning that anyone over the age of 18 can now be prosecuted if they communicate with a child in a sexual manner either online, by text, written notes or orally.

Freya, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was 12 when, while she was staying at a friend's house, a stranger bombarded her Instagram account with sexual messages and videos.

Her mum Pippa, whose name has also been changed, told the NSPCC: "She was quiet and seemed on edge when she came home the next day.

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"When she showed me the messages, I just felt sick. It was such a violation and he was so persistent.

"He knew she was 12, but he kept bombarding her with texts and explicit videos and images.

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"Freya didn't even understand what she was looking at.

"Our children should be safe in their bedrooms. They should be safe from messages from strangers if their accounts are on private, but they're not."

The use of social media by offenders has also been on the rise in the East of England.

Facebook-owned apps including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat were used in 70% of the instances where police recorded and provided the communication method in the last two years.

Instagram was used in more than a quarter of them, up from 62 in 2017/18 to 113 last year.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won't act unless they are forced to by law.

"The Government needs to stand firm and bring in regulation without delay."

A Facebook spokesman said: "There is no place for grooming or child exploitation on our platforms and we use technology to proactively find and quickly remove it. We also investigate reports from the community with a content and security team of over 30,000 people who respond to reports 24/7" - A Facebook company spokesperson

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