3000 child sex offences involved the internet last year

Troubling figures revealed on first day of our state of the nation conference, "How safe are our children?"

Girl using laptopThe internet was used as a gateway by offenders to commit more than 3,000 sex crimes against children last year, we reveal today.

The offences reported to 38 police forces in England and Wales, included sexual assaults, grooming victims before meeting them, inciting children to take part in a sex act and over 100 rapes during 2015/16.

Most victims were 13 year olds (535), but there were 272 victims under 10 and the youngest was a 1-year-old baby.


This is the first time police have been required to record - 'cyber flag' - any sexual crime against a child that involved the use of the internet and highlights a worrying trend.

Cyber-flagging was made mandatory by the Home Office at the beginning of April 2015 to get a better understanding of the extent of online offences.

With children spending more time online and using social media, we're urging police forces to ensure all officers understand when to apply the cyber-flag to sex crimes, so that they are recording and investigating them effectively.

Our findings:

The number of offences that were cyber-flagged widely varied across the country:

  • an average of 8 crimes were reported a day
  • some forces recording hundreds of crimes, while others had fewer than 10
  • a small number of forces said they weren't using, or didn't know about, the cyber-flag.

Police must be equipped to tackle internet crime

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive said:
"These figures confirm our fears that the online world is playing a significant role in the sexual abuse of children in the UK.

"It's clear that a large volume of sexual assaults and rapes of children have involved the use of the internet – for example by grooming victims before abusing them offline, or live-streaming the abuse.

"We know grooming is on the rise because children are increasingly telling our ChildLine service how they are being targeted online. Predatory adults posing as children try to meet them or blackmail them into meeting up or performing sexual acts on webcams, which obviously terrifies them and can leave some feeling suicidal.

"By revealing this first year of data we hope to highlight how police are under increasing pressure to cope with online offences so we have to ensure they have the resources and training to make them fit for tackling crime in the 21st century.

"And government must make mental health support available to every child who has endured abuse - as we are calling for through our It's Time campaign."

More about keeping children safe