'Truly sickening' almost 450 sex crimes committed last year against babies under one

10 August 2020, 06:35

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins has described the figures as 'truly sickening' and has said tackling child abuse is a 'priority'
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins has described the figures as 'truly sickening' and has said tackling child abuse is a 'priority'. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A total of 449 sex offences were committed in the past year against babies before they reached their first birthday, new figures show.

British police forces recorded 73,518 offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in 2019/20, similar to the 73,379 the previous year but up 57 per cent from 46,738 in 2014/15.

The data suggested girls were four times more likely to be victims than boys.

Children's charity the NSPCC has revealed the numbers as they call for "urgent action" to help protect children and support them after offences.

More than 8,000 offences were committed against 14-year-olds, while 12,374 sex crimes were recorded against children under 10, and 449 against babies yet to reach their first birthday.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "The crisis of child sexual abuse is not going away and behind these figures are thousands of children and young people who have reported crimes that can have a devastating impact on their lives.

"Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when they bravely speak out."

The figures come from 44 of the 45 police forces across the UK, but do not include Greater Manchester Police, who did not provide information.

They were released on Monday as an NSPCC report found contacts to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled during the coronavirus lockdown with an average of 23 per week since March 23.

"It started during lockdown," one 17-year-old girl said.

"I don't want to live here anymore.

"I feel I should tell social services about how abusive dad is, but I don't feel ready to tell them about the sexual abuse part."

The NSPCC is urging the Government to publish its strategy to tackle child sexual abuse announced by then home secretary Sajid Javid in June last year.

The charity is calling for departments, including the Home Office, Department of Education and Ministry of Justice to join up efforts to prevent abuse.

Mr Wanless added: "We need concerted leadership from governments across the UK to implement strategies on tackling child sexual abuse that put the experiences and needs of children at their heart and are effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover."

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: "These are truly sickening figures, which is why the government has made it a priority to lead the global effort to tackle this crime, safeguard victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

"We have hosted the Hidden Harms summit, collaborated with Five Eyes partners and convened a global conference to drive the response as well as invested in law enforcement and boosted funds to charities, including the NSPCC which received £1.6 million towards its helpline.

"It is right that we prioritised children at an immediate risk during the pandemic and are now working towards publishing our first of its kind national strategy on tackling all forms of child sexual abuse by the end of this year."