Worrying rise in number of child abuse image crimes in Northamptonshire

Police recorded more than 200 child abuse image offences in Northamptonshire last year, data from the NSPCC shows.

The NSPCC has warned that offenders are using social networks to target children for abuse online, grooming and manipulating them into sending naked images.

A freedom of information request submitted by the children’s charity shows that between April 2017 and March 2018, Northamptonshire Police recorded 263 offences of viewing child abuse images.

This was up from 245 over the previous 12 months.

Although there were 263 cases recorded, each of those can involve the viewing of hundreds of indecent images of children.

Unlike most forces, Northamptonshire Police did not give details of which specific offence was recorded for each crime.

Across the UK’s police forces, nearly 23,000 offences were recorded in 2017-18, 25% more than in 2016-17.

The figures come after the Home Secretary warned internet giants, including Google and Facebook, that they could be subject to new laws unless they increase their efforts to tackle online child abuse content.

Tony Stower, NSPCC’s head of child safety online, said: “Every one of these images represents a real child who has been groomed and abused to supply the demand of this appalling trade.

“The lack of adequate protections on social networks has given offenders all too easy access to children to target and abuse. This is the last chance saloon for social networks on whose platforms this abuse is often taking place.”

A recent NSPCC survey of 40,000 young people revealed an average of one in 50 school children had sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult.

Crime minister Victoria Atkins said the scale of online child sexual exploitation was a “stain on our world”.

“The Home Secretary has made five unequivocal demands of web giants to remove child sexual abuse content from their platforms, including stopping grooming and shutting down live-streaming,” she said.

“He expects immediate action and how far we legislate will be informed by the action and attitude taken by the technology industry.”