Record number of online child abuse logged by police

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The number of online child sex abuse cases logged by police has hit a record high, figures suggest.

More than 10,000 offences were recorded between April 2019 and March 2020, an 16% increase on the previous year, according to an analysis by the NSPCC.

Police forces in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands responded to the charity's Freedom of Information request.

The NSPCC is concerned the real figure may be higher.

The data relates to the 12 months before the coronavirus lockdown. During lockdown, police warned of a rise in the grooming of children on the internet.

This data brings the total number of recorded offences in the five years since it became mandatory to record whether a crime involved the internet to more than 37,000.

Media caption,
WATCH: In June the BBC spoke to an internet safety campaigner and investigator who poses as a 14-year-old girl online

The charity wants the government to make its Online Harms legislation, designed to better protect vulnerable people, a priority in the coming months.

"These figures suggest that online abuse was already rising before lockdown, and the risks to children appear to have spiked significantly since," said Andy Burrows, NSPCC head of child safety online policy.

"It is now almost 17 months since the government's original proposals for social media regulation were published, and children continue to face preventable harm online.

"At the Hidden Harms Summit, the prime minister signalled he was determined to act.

"That's why he needs to prioritise making progress on a comprehensive Online Harms Bill this autumn, and pass legislation by the end of 2021 that sees tech firms held criminally and financially accountable if they put children at risk."

In June, the chairman of the House of Lords democracy and digital committee said it was "unacceptable" that the Online Harms Bill might not come into effect until 2023 or 2024, after a government minister said she could not commit to bringing it to Parliament next year.