NSPCC research via a freedom of information request to all 43 police forces in England and Wales show that at least 64 children are sexually abused every day in England and Wales.
For the first time, its research also looked at the age of abusers and found a quarter were aged under 18. One in four victims was aged 11 or under.
Jon Brown, who heads the NSPCC’s work on child sex abuse, said the increase was a “real concern” – “Most child sexual abuse goes undetected, unreported and unprosecuted…. Thousands of people come forward every year to report sex crimes against children. But many victims are too young to ask for help. Others are too scared to tell anyone about their suffering until years later,” he said.”More than 2,000 suspects in these cases were under 18. It’s clear we need more services that address the harmful sexual behaviour of young people, as well as adult offenders.”
The police force reporting the largest number of crimes was London’s Metropolitan (3,672), followed by West Midlands (1,531) and West Yorkshire (1,205).
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) warned that recorded crime figures were “not a good indicator of the prevalence or trends of child sexual abuse” as much abuse went unreported and rises could be attributable to victims of historic abuse coming forward. However, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies, the Acpo lead for child protection and child abuse investigation, said: “Understanding the crime though is central to success. “We are starting to bring it out of the dark places where victims suffer in silence for fear of reporting while recent infiltration of intricate global paedophile networks is further testament to the work we have collectively done to understand how offenders think and operate.”
The Home Office said the figures were “appalling”. A Home Office spokesman said the government would continue to work with groups like the NSPCC to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.
It pointed to the roll-out of the child sex offender disclosure scheme across police forces in England and Wales earlier this year, which allows parents to check whether someone in contact with their child is a convicted sex offender. Dubbed “Sarah’s Law”, it was proposed after the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted sex offender, Roy Whiting, in West Sussex in 2000. The Home Office said this was a “major step forward in our ability to protect children from sex offenders”.