NSPCC warning after extent of child sex crimes in the Thames Valley revealed

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Six sexual offences against children and young people were recorded every day across the Thames Valley.

There were 2,440 child sex offences recorded by Thames Valley Police last year according to statistics published by the NSPCC.

The charity obtained the figures via Freedom of Information request, and bosses say that they could represent only the tip of the iceberg.

701 offences were recorded against children aged ten and under - and the previous year, 2015/16, saw 2,448 child sex offences recorded.

Julie Hilton, NSPCC Schools Service Manager for the East of England, said: “These figures are extremely concerning and show just how extensive child sexual abuse is.

“That’s why we must empower children to recognise abuse and know how to report it from an early age so they can get help and support.

“This is exactly what our Speak Out Stay Safe volunteers are doing in schools across the Thames Valley. In an age-appropriate way we are giving children as young as five the tools to stay safe from all forms of abuse and encouraging them to talk to a trusted adult or Childline about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.”

Nationally there were a record 64,667 child sex offences recorded by UK police in 2016/17, up 15% on the previous year with an offence recorded on average every eight minutes.

One in ten of these offences were flagged as having an online element – a 59 per cent increase on the previous year.

The total number of sex offences committed against children is unknown, as more children may not have come forward out of fear or embarrassment, or may not even realise they have been abused.

The NSPCC believes the increase could be down to a number of factors:

- Police forces improving recording methods.

- Survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases.

- Online groomers becoming a significant problem with predators able to reach hundreds of children.

The NSPCC is calling for government to direct more resources to ensure high-quality training and support is available to frontline police officers to help raise awareness of safeguarding procedures and tackle child sex offences, especially online.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal. That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives. .

“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children. To help them tackle the issue going forward, we must ensure the police are equipped to work with other agencies and provide ongoing support and training to officers on the frontline.”