Five sex crimes against Northern Ireland children reported daily

PSNI officers must lead way on child protection

PSNI officers must lead way on child protection

The extent of child sexual abuse in Britain has been exposed by a leading children's charity which reveals offences against children are recorded on average every eight minutes.

Herts police data obtained by children's charity the NSPCC shows that the number of child sex offences recorded by the force in 2016/17 rose to 771 - up by 16 per cent from the prevous year.

A total of 512 crimes in West Mercia were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 137 of these crimes were perpetrated against children four and under.

Nationally a child sex abuse offence was recorded by United Kingdom police every eight minutes on average, equating to a record 64,667 recorded crimes -up 15 per cent on the previous year.

A total of 193 offences were recorded against babies younger than a year old.

One thing the NSPCC is keen to stress is that the increase in figures does not necessarily mean child sexual abuse is more prevalent now than ever before.

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Despite the rise, the NSPCC believes the figures suggest police are making "real progress" in how they investigate sex offences against children.

Chief executive of the NSPCC Peter Wanless said: "These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child's life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal".

The NSPCC's trousers campaign, which uses a friendly animated dinosaur to teach children The Underwear Rule, educates children about what is sexual abuse and provides advice about how to stay safe from it.

Figures released by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) this morning also showed about a third of these were against children under the age of 10.

58 were recorded against children aged four and under, meanwhile 53 were flagged as having an "online element".

Historical child sexual offences must also be considered - Dyfed-Powys Police is now investigating abuse on Caldey Island in the 1970s and 80s while a trial is ongoing as part of Operation Almond - an investigation into abuse at two children's homes in Carmarthenshire.

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Lincolnshire Police disputed figures used however, as FOI requests they received had asked for slightly different information and were not comparable - "reported" crimes in 2015/16 (738) and "recorded" crimes in 2016/17 (666).

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Protecting children from all forms of abuse - including child sex abuse - is a priority for us and this is clearly reflected in the legislation and policy we have already introduced".

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"This has to change so children and young people who have been sexually abused can get the vital help they need to rebuild their lives".

The scheme visits primary schools across the United Kingdom to help children understand when they have been abused and what they can do about it if they are a victim.

"As a force, we work closely with the NSPCC, local authorities and other partner agencies to safeguard those who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and protect them from harm".

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