Close to a hundred grooming offences in Essex last year

MORE than 6,000 grooming crimes have been recorded by police in England and Wales since April 2013, new Home Office figures show.

There were a total of 2,996 grooming crimes recorded from April to December 2017, which included the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, brought into force in April 2017, as well as offences for Meeting a Child After Grooming.

In Essex, 93 grooming crimes were recorded last year. But from 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2017, Essex Police recorded a total of 181 offences. Across England and Wales there were 6,341 offences over the last five years.

The NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign is calling on Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to bring in a mandatory safety code to regulate social networks to keep children safe online and help prevent grooming.

Mr Hancock is in the process of drawing up an Internet Safety Strategy, but it is expected to bring in a social media safety code which is voluntary in nature and the Strategy will include no plans to prevent grooming.1

Last week the charity revealed that Facebook and Facebook-owned apps, Instagram and Whatsapp, were used in 52% of online grooming cases where police disclosed which methods were used by suspects. The youngest child to be targeted in the first nine months of the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child was just two years old.

Tony Stower, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online, said: “These thousands of crimes show the sheer scale of grooming, where predators have either messaged their victim or gone on to meet them in person.

“At present our Government is only prepared to tackle grooming after the harm has been done, and its forthcoming Internet Safety Strategy has no plans to prevent grooming from happening in the first place.

“Culture Secretary Matt Hancock could change this and bring an end to the Wild West Web. I urge him to bring in regulation for social networks, backed by an independent regulator with teeth.”

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