MORE than 3,000 offences have been recorded in England and Wales in the first year since a new anti-grooming law came into force, with the youngest child targeted aged just five years old.
Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were the top three most-recorded sites out of 80 different methods used in grooming offences.
The new crime of Sexual Communication with a Child came into force on April 3, 2017 following an NSPCC campaign, and in the first year a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded by police – amounting to nine grooming offences per day.
Police revealed which methods groomers used in 2,097 instances, and records show Facebook was used in nearly 30% of those cases, while Snapchat and Instagram were each used in around a fifth of cases.
Essex Police recorded 60 offences of Sexual Communication with a Child during the first year of the law, with 23 crimes recorded as involving Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram.
Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, Digital Secretary Matt Hancock announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as grooming.
The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to prevent grooming and to truly keep children safe. It is calling on Government to:
• Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow;
• Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites
• Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports;
• Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.
It comes ahead of the charity’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday, June 20 and has the theme Growing Up Online.
Across England and Wales, where police disclosed the gender and age of the victim, girls aged 12-15 were recorded as being the victim in 62% of cases. And under-11s were recorded as the victim in nearly a quarter of cases.
The majority of male and female victims of the offence recorded by Essex Police were aged 16 and older, with 24 cases highlighted in the figures provided.