SEXUAL offences against children in Warwickshire in the past year included five involving babies.
A total of 779 offences were recorded by Warwickshire Police in 2016/17 – up 45 per cent from 538 in the previous year – as the number of recorded child sex offences across the UK hit an all-time high.
New figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request by the NSPCC found the force recorded crimes including rape, sexual assault and grooming – with five offences recorded against victims aged just one.
A total of 231 crimes in Warwickshire were recorded against children aged ten and under, while 62 of the crimes were perpetrated against children four and under.
And 65 offences recorded by Warwickshire Police were flagged as having an online element – up from 38 the year before.
But the NSPCC says the total number of 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 had been abused.
The NSPCC believes the dramatic increase could be down to a number of factors including improved police recording methods, victims feeling more confident in disclosing abuse following high-profile cases, and 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 training and support is available to frontline police officers to help tackle child sex offences, especially online.
But it is also vital children feel able to come forward to disclose abuse. The NSPCC’s Speak Out Stay Safe programme visited 48 primary schools in Warwickshire last year, helping more than 13,000 children learn the signs of abuse in an age-appropriate way, and what to do if they have been victims of such abuse.
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.”
Warwickshire Police is constantly looking to combat child sexual abuse.
Det Supt Richard Long says: “The statistics presented by the NSPCC show a rise in the number of reports of sex offences against under-18s. A fairly similar rise is seen among adults too, so we believe it’s a strong indicator that people of all ages are feeling more empowered and confident than ever before to report such incidents, which include historical sex offences.
“That confidence is likely to be down to many factors including high profile cases in the media, a greater-than-ever number of ways to report sexual crimes, and relentless campaigning done by organisations such as the NSPCC.
“The police are doing great work to boost that confidence too. Our officers receive thorough, ongoing training to ensure they know how to properly deal with reports of sexual abuse.
“We also collaborate more and more with partners who support victims of sexual abuse through the investigative process.
Anyone who suspects a child may be at risk of sexual abuse – or wants to report a sex offence against a person of any age – should call police on 101 – or 999 in an emergency.