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Eight babies among child sex abuse victims in Cambridgeshire as figures show sharp rise in offences last year

Reports of child abuse in Cambridgeshire is up by nearly a quarter says child charity NSPCC.
Reports of child abuse in Cambridgeshire is up by nearly a quarter says child charity NSPCC.

The number of child sex offences recorded by Cambridgeshire Police rose by almost a quarter last year - with eight cases involving babies under one.

The number of offences recorded in 2016/17 increased to 746 up by almost a quarter (23 per cent) from the previous year when 608 offences were recorded according to figures revealed by the NSPCC - meaning two children a day were victims of abuse.

New figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request to police across the UK found officers recorded, crimes including rape, sexual assault and grooming – with eight offences recorded against babies aged one and under in Cambridgeshire.

A total of 262 crimes were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 65 of these crimes were perpetrated against children aged four and under.

Nationally there were a record 64,667 child sex offences recorded by UK police in 2016/17, up 15 per cent on the previous year with an offence recorded on average every eight minutes.

One in ten of these offences were flagged as having an online element – a 59 per cent increase on the previous year.

The total number of sex offences committed against children is unknown, as more children may not have come forward out of fear or embarrassment, or may not even realise they have been abused.

The NSPCC believes the dramatic increase could be down to a number of factors:

• Police forces improving recording methods.

• Survivors feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases.

• Online groomers becoming a significant problem with predators able to reach hundreds of children.

The NSPCC is calling for government to direct more resources to ensure high-quality training and support is available to frontline police officers to help raise awareness of safeguarding procedures and tackle child sex offences, especially online.

But it is also vital that children feel able to come forward to disclose abuse. The NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe programme visits primary schools across the UK to help children learn the signs of abuse in an age appropriate way, and what to do if they have been victims of such abuse. The scheme reached more than 29,000 children in Cambridgeshire in the last academic year.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.

“These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal. That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives.

“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children. To help them tackle the issue going forward, we must ensure the police are equipped to work with other agencies and provide ongoing support and training to officers on the front line.”

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