Grooming crimes recorded by police in Northamptonshire have soared by double in the space of a year, a new piece of research has found.
Officers at the county force recorded 52 offences between April 2018 and April 2019 - a 100 per cent leap on the 26 recorded over the same period the previous year.
The figures match a worrying national trend. In England and Wales there were 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a child recorded in the year to April 2019 compared with 3,217 in the previous year. The offence came into force on April 3, 2017, following an NSPCC campaign.
The data obtained from 43 police forces in England and Wales under Freedom of Information laws also revealed that, where age was provided, one in five victims were aged just 11 or younger.
In 2018/19 in England and Wales the number of recorded instances of the use of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was more than double that of the previous year.
Overall in the last two years, Facebook-owned apps such as Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat were used in 70 per cent of the instances where police recorded and provided the communication method in the East of England.
Instagram was used in more than a quarter of them, up from 62 in 2017/18 to 113 last year.
The Government has indicated it will publish a draft Online Harms Bill early next year, following the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign. The proposals would introduce independent regulation of social networks, with tough sanctions if they fail to keep children safe on their platforms.
The NSPCC believes it is now crucial that Boris Johnson’s Government makes a public commitment to draw up the Online Harms laws and implement robust regulation for tech firms to force them to protect children as a matter of urgency.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said: “It’s now clearer than ever that Government has no time to lose in getting tough on these tech firms.
“Despite the huge amount of pressure that social networks have come under to put basic protections in place, children are being groomed and abused on their
platforms every single day. These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won’t act unless they are forced to by law. The Government
needs to stand firm and bring in regulation without delay.”