There will be more than 3,500 online child abuse crimes every month the Online Safety Bill is delayed

A record number of child abuse offences took place online last year and it’s essential the next Prime Minister makes it a national priority to pass the Online Safety Bill.


Our analysis of new Home Office crime data1 found a tenfold increase in online child sexual abuse offences recorded by police in England and Wales over the last decade. 

The landmark Online Safety Bill was due to pass through the House of Commons last week but was postponed until at least the autumn when a new Prime Minister will be in place. 

The massive growth in crimes and the sheer scale of abuse taking place against children should serve as a wake-up call for the next Prime Minister to make the Online Safety Bill a national priority. There is an urgent need for Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to commit to keeping the promise made to children and families in passing the legislation in full and without delay. 

Our latest research found there is likely to be more than 3,500 online sex crimes taking place against children every month the Online Safety Bill continues to be delayed. The data shows 42,503 Obscene Publication (Child Abuse Image) and Sexual Grooming crimes were logged in the year to March– up from 3,706 just ten years ago2.

Frida*, who is a survivor of online abuse, said: 


“The abuse that I experienced started ten years ago when I was 13. It is sickening that since then the number of young people being abused online has grown dramatically. 

Being groomed has had a horrific impact on my life and I want no other young person to endure that. I know this delay to the Online Safety Bill will see more young people like me experience harm when it could have been prevented, and that is devastating.”

The disturbing reality of delaying the Online Safety Bill is more children being groomed on their smartphones and tablets, being contacted by offenders in the summer holidays, and coerced into acts of online sexual abuse in their bedrooms.

We first secured the commitment to regulate social media four years ago to try to counteract the inaction of Silicon Valley when it came to the abuse taking place against children on their platforms.

The legislation would put a duty of care on companies for their users and mean they would have to put measures in place to prevent and disrupt child abuse on their sites and protect children from harm. 

Continuing to delay the Online Safety Bill could result it in being watered down despite years of failed self-regulation by tech firms putting children at increased risk

NSPCC Chief Executive, Sir Peter Wanless, said: 


“With every second the clock ticks by on the Online Safety Bill an ever-growing number of children and families face the unimaginable trauma of preventable child abuse. 

The need for legislation to protect children is clear, commands overwhelming support from MPs and the public and builds on the UK’s global leadership position in tackling harm online. Robust regulation can be delivered while protecting freedom of speech and privacy.

There can be no more important mission for Government than to keep children safe from abuse and the next Prime Minister must keep the promise made to families in the election manifesto and deliver the Online Safety Bill as a national priority.”

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive Officer at the Internet Watch Foundation, said: 

“These alarming figures represent thousands of images of real children, who have been abused and raped and their lives irrevocably altered.

We need to protect children by blocking and removing as much of this imagery from the internet as possible. However, IWF data also shows that 15 times more child sexual abuse material was found online by our analysts in 2021 than 10 years previously.

The predominant type of imagery is ‘self-generated’, where children are groomed or extorted into abusing themselves on camera. Of the 250,000 web addresses actioned by the IWF last year, more than 7 in 10 reports included this type of content3. These images are then distributed widely over a number of platforms.

Given that the internet provides easy access into people’s homes, where someone can record children who are often alone in their bedrooms via a phone or computer camera, it is urgent that the Online Safety Bill remains a priority on the government’s agenda.”


  1. 1.All statistics unless otherwise stated taken from Home Office police-recorded crime open data, 21 July 2022.

  2. 2. There were 42,503 combined Sexual Grooming (7,025) and Obscene Publication (35,478) offences recorded by police in England in Wales in 2021/22. This is the equivalent of an average of 3,542 a month and an increase of 1,046% on the 3,706 recorded in 2011/12.

    Published figures do not reveal how many of the Obscene Publication offences involve images of children but results from the NSPCC’s previous Freedom of Information requests suggest the vast majority are.

    For both offences, it is likely the majority of crimes involve the internet considering the role it plays in publishing and sharing images and is easily used by offenders to contact and build relationships with children. This proportion is likely to increase as police forces flag online crimes more consistently.