Cyber-related sex crimes against children up to almost one every hour

  • On average nationally, police recorded 22 cyber-related sex crimes against children a day in 2018/19 
  • Sussex Police recorded a 53% rise in cyber-related sex crimes from 2017/18 to 2018/19
  • NSPCC calls on the next Prime Minister to prioritise online safety by delivering statutory regulation to protect children from the risks of abuse  

Children are increasingly being targeted on the web by sex offenders – with an average of 22 crimes a day taking place online last year, NSPCC figures have revealed. 

Last year, a record 8,224 child sexual offences logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had an online element, according to figures obtained by the NSPCC through a Freedom of Information request. 

Police in Sussex recorded 58 crimes in in 18/19 up from 38 in 17/18.

A total of 40 out of 44 forces provided the NSPCC with data on cyber-related sex crimes against under 18s including online grooming, sexual communication with a child, and rape. 

The charity now calls on the next Prime Minister to stand firm against industry lobbying by prioritising online safety and bringing in laws that deliver a change in protection against abuse. 

For offences where the age was recorded, 13 was the most common age of the victim but there were 164 offences committed against children aged ten and under, even including babies yet to reach their first birthday. 

 
The number of crimes has doubled in the last four years since police began recording whether an offence had an internet element with a cyberflag, up from 4,042 in 2015/16. 

The NSPCC fears that the figures may not reveal the true extent of the problem due to potential under-recording of the role of online in these crimes and wide logging variation across forces. It also comes on top of other online harms against children recorded by police such as indecent image offences. 

The worrying figures have been revealed ahead of the NSPCC’s flagship annual conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins today in London. 

It comes just days before the Government closes its consultation on its Online Harms White Paper, which proposes to introduce an independent regulator to enforce a legal duty of care on tech companies to keep users safe on their platforms.  

The NSPCC has led the charge on this for the past two years with its Wild West Web campaign.  

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “Behind each offence is a child suffering at the hands of sex offenders and, worryingly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg. 
“Far too many children are drowning in a sea of online threats so it’s now time for the next Prime Minister, whoever he may be, to cast out the life jacket. 
“He must hold his nerve and introduce an independent regulator to protect children from the risks of abuse and harmful content.”