Child abuse image offence recorded every 23 minutes in the UK

Our #WildWestWeb campaign calls for a new regulator to protect children and hold social media networks to account 

Boy on phone. Posed by model

The number of child abuse image offences recorded by police in the UK rose by almost a quarter last year, with an average of 1 offence every 23 minutes1

New figures obtained by us from Freedom of Information requests to every police force in the country, found that 22,724 offences were recorded in 2017/18. 

A single offence recorded by police can involve hundreds of indecent images of children. 

Offenders use social networks to target children for abuse online, grooming and manipulating them into sending naked images. 

    • Last month, we revealed that an average of 1 in 50 schoolchildren had sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult. 
    • Our #WildWestWeb campaign is calling on Government to prevent abuse from happening in the first place by introducing an independent regulator to hold social networks to account, tackle grooming and cut off the supply of these images at source. 


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.

“Our Wild West Web campaign is calling on Government to introduce a tough independent regulator to hold social networks to account and tackle grooming to cut off supply of these images at source.”

Wild West Web: our campaign

We're calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright to stand up for children and introduce tough regulation for social networks. We want:

  • an independent regulator who can put in place mandatory child safety rules for social networks
  • safe accounts for children
  • detailed reporting on how social networks are keeping children safe.

We need your help to ensure children are safe online. Sign our petition and help end the #WildWestWeb.

Sign the petition

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*Quotes are created from real Childline contacts but are not necessarily direct quotes from the young person. Names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person. 


  1. The NSPCC sent the 43 police forces across England and Wales an FOI asking them for the number of recorded offences for indecent images (still or moving) of children between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2018. The NSPCC formally requested the same information from police forces in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

    The NSPCC received responses from all UK police forces which confirmed a total of 18,522 offences were recorded in 2016/17, with the figure rising by 23 per cent to 22,724 in 2017/18.


    Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, police recorded 26,070 (63 per cent) offences relating to taking, making or distributing indecent photograph or pseudo-photographs of children, 10,307 (25 per cent) offences related to the possession of an indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children, and 146 offences (0.4 per cent) related to the possession of prohibited images of children. The remaining 4,365 offences (11 per cent) were either categorised as ‘other’ or there was no breakdown given by the police force.

    Higher recorded numbers of sexual abuse images offences do not necessarily reflect higher prevalence of sexual abuse images, but could be explained by better police recording,  more proactive investigations and greater awareness of grooming and sexual abuse images.