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Police figures reveal rise of almost 80% in reports of child-on-child sex offences

Release Date: 03 Feb 2017

Recorded cases of children committing sexual offences against other children rocketed by 78 per cent in England and Wales between 2013 and 2016, research by Barnardo’s reveals.

The number of alleged offences reported to police forces in England and Wales rose from 5,215 in 2013 to 9,290 in 2016.

In total, there were 32,452 reports to police of alleged sexual offences by children on other children over the four year period – an average of more than 22 every day.

The true number is likely to be higher because seven of the 43 forces in England and Wales either did not respond or provided only a partial response.

The startling figures, obtained by Barnardo’s under Freedom of Information rules, reveal the number of reported cases more than doubled in 12 force areas between 2013 and 2016. In Warwickshire there was a rise of 521 per cent. Norfolk saw an increase of 371 per cent and the rise in Lincolnshire was 345 per cent.

The forces with the highest number of reported offences were the Metropolitan Police (5,470); West Yorkshire (3,192); Greater Manchester (3,024); West Midlands (2,876) and Kent (1,678).

The alarming figures strengthen calls by the UK’s leading children’s charity for action to tackle the growing problem of children sexually harming each other.

Last summer Barnardo’s warned that child on child sexual abuse threatened to become the next major child protection issue. It backed calls for a national inquiry to examine the issue and urged government to develop a national strategy to tackle it.

Barnardo’s also believes that age-appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) would better protect children and help them understand consent, respect and what a healthy relationship should look like.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:

Barnardo’s warned last year that unless child on child sexual abuse is dealt with head on, it may become the next scandal in our society. These results are another wake up call to the extent of the problem.

We’re deeply concerned more children may be sexually harming other children. We know this can be because they’ve been abused themselves and may not have received the right support to help them recover.

An estimated third of sexual abuse is carried out by children. Rehabilitating children so they don’t go on to harm others is vital to preventing further sexual abuse. High quality age appropriate mandatory SRE lessons would help children recognise what a healthy relationship should look like.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection and Chief Constable of Norfolk police, Simon Bailey said:

We believe we can attribute these increases to more awareness and greater victim confidence. We also have to look at the possibility that more abuse is being perpetrated and if technology is facilitating this.

These figures highlight the importance of building resilience in young people and educating them about sexual relationships. This can’t be left to chance.

I know from my own force that we are engaging with schools more than ever to educate and raise awareness of both the different forms of abuse and how to get support. It is clear from the increase in the number of reports we are receiving how vital this work is.

Nusrat Ghani, the Conservative MP who chaired last summer’s cross-party inquiry on Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB) said:

This latest research shows what a problem child on child abuse is, and why we need to tackle it. But it hopefully also shows that awareness of this issue is rising and that people are more likely to report instances of it to the police.

Our report was right to put this issue front and centre, because for too long it has gone unreported and not been understood. The Government must work with schools, local authorities, police and voluntary organisations to tackle it.

In this smartphone age, parents must also play a vigilant role in protecting their children from harmful sexual behaviour and from harmful sexual images that cause damage they are too young to understand.

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