Police record over 10,000 online child sex crimes in a year for the first time

Numbers of Childline counselling sessions about grooming went up during lockdown


New data reveals that:

  • 10,391 crimes were recorded by all forces across the UK for 2019/20. Total is for sexual offences that involve an online element; including grooming, sexual assault and rape.1 
  • Offences increased by 16% from the previous year.2

In the five years since it became mandatory to record crimes involving the internet, the total number of recorded offences has risen over 37,000.

Although the Freedom of Information (FOI) data does not include the lockdown period, research suggest that risks to children online have increased during this period, and the number of Childline counselling sessions about online grooming have increased.3

In April 209, the government published the Online Harms White Paper but are yet to produce the final consultation response.

Our #WildWestWeb campaign is calling for the government to push forward with the Online Harms White Paper and to set up an independent regulator who would have the power to investigate and fine social networks if they failed to protect children. We are also asking the government to publish its final plans before the end of the year, and pass legislation by the end of 2021.

Sign our petition 

Emma's story

Olivia’s* daughter Emma* was 6 years old when she was groomed and sexually exploited through an online game called Movie Star Planet.

A man gained her trust then threatened her into sending him and other adults sexually explicit images. Then the online grooming moved to sexual abuse.

"He would threaten to expose her if she didn’t do as she was told, that he would even put her in a “shallow grave” or kill us, her parents."
Olivia*, Emma*'s mother

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

"These figures suggest that online abuse was already rising before lockdown, and the risks to children appear to have spiked significantly since. It is now almost 17 months since the Government’s original proposals for social media regulation were published and children continue to face preventable harm online. The Prime Minister needs to prioritise introducing a truly comprehensive Online Harms Bill this Autumn and pass legislation by the end of 2021 that sees tech firms held criminally and financially accountable if they continue to put children at risk."
Andy Burrows, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online Policy

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  1. 1. The NSPCC sent the 44 police forces across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as the Government of Jersey, a Freedom of Information request asking for the number of sexual offences against under 18-year-olds that had a cyber-flag attached to them between 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. All forces provided information on 10,391 offences. The same Access to Public Information request was also sent to the State of Guernsey, where no cyber-flagged sexual offences were recorded.

  2. 2. Of the 43 police forces that provided data for both 2018/19 and 2019/20 there was a 16% increase from 8,807 offences recorded in 2018/19 to 10,193 in 2019/20.

  3. 3. Childline counselling sessions about child sexual exploitation, grooming and/or contact with a person who poses an online sexual abuse risk increased 18% during the lockdown from an average of 64 sessions per month pre-lockdown (06/01/20 to 22/03/20) to 76 per month during lockdown (23/03/20 to 26/07/20).