Cyber-related sex crimes against children up to almost five every week

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Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
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Children are increasingly being targeted on the web by sex offenders – with almost five cyber-enabled sex crimes being recorded each week against children in Northern Ireland.

In 2018/19, a total of 243 recorded sexual offences against children were ‘flagged’ by the PSNI as having an online element, representing a 268 per cent increase over the past four years from 66 offences in 2014/15.

 

 

In total, 12 per cent of all 2,036 recorded sexual offences against children in Northern Ireland last year were cyber-enabled. 

A record 8,224 child sexual offences logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had an online element, according to figures obtained by the NSPCC through a Freedom of Information request in England and Wales, and provided by the PSNI in Northern Ireland.

The charity is now calling on the next Prime Minister to stand out by prioritising online safety and bring in laws that are robust and proportionate.

Across the UK, a total of 40 out of 44 forces provided the NSPCC with data on cyber-related sex crimes against under 18s including online grooming, sexual communication with a child, and rape.

 

 

For offences where the age was recorded, 13 was the most common age of the victim but there were 164 offences committed against children aged ten and under, even including babies yet to reach their first birthday.

The NSPCC said they fear that the figures may not reveal the true extent of the problem due to potential under-recording of the role of online in these crimes and wide logging variation across forces.

It also comes on top of other online harms against children recorded by police such as indecent image offences.

The worrying figures have been revealed ahead of the NSPCC’s flagship annual conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins in London.

 

 

It comes just days before the UK Government closes its consultation on its Online Harms White Paper, which proposes to introduce an independent regulator to enforce a legal duty of care on tech companies to keep users safe on their platforms.

The NSPCC has led the charge on this for the past two years with its Wild West Web campaign.

Neil Anderson, Head of NSPCC Northern Ireland said, “Behind each offence is a vulnerable child suffering at the hands of sex offenders and, worryingly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg.

 

 

“Thousands of children are drowning in a sea of online threats so it’s now time for the next Prime Minister, whoever he may be, to cast out the life jacket.

He added, “He must hold his nerve and introduce an independent regulator to protect children from the risks of abuse and harmful content.”

 

 

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