James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Nearly 19,000 children sexually groomed in England over the past year
29 December 2019, 16:43
Almost 19,000 children were victims of sexual grooming in England over the past year, according to the latest figures.
The Home Office will "leave no stone unturned" in tackling child sexual grooming, a spokesman has said.
Recent data, obtained by the Department for Education, revealed that 18,700 minors had been exploited between 2018 and 2019.
This was an increase of 3,300 cases from five years ago and represents a sharp increase in the number of child grooming victims in England.
A spokesman for the Home Office said the department "is committed to tackling child sexual abuse and will leave no stone unturned in tackling this abhorrent behaviour."
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, which has been notoriously targeted by grooming gangs, told The Independent this data shines a light on "one of the largest forms of child abuse in the country."
She said: "Too many times, government has said it will 'learn lessons,' yet 19,000 children are still at risk of sexual exploitation."
The figures highlighted Lancashire as the local authority with the highest number of children who were victims of sexual grooming - a total of 624.
Birmingham was second, with 490, and was followed by Surrey (447), Bradford (414) and Gloucestershire (409).
Four men from the West Midlands town of Telford were jailed earlier this month for abusing a young girl who was sold for sex and raped.
The offences took place between 2001 and 2002 and started when the girl, who is now an adult, was 13.
She told the court she was assaulted by other unidentified males, with the abuse continuing until she was in her mid-teens.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was established "to get to the truth, expose what has gone wrong and learn lessons for the future," the Home Office spokesman said.
He added: "The inquiry operates independently of government and, within its terms of reference, decides for itself what it investigates.
"The inquiry is investigating institutional responses to child sexual exploitation by organised criminal networks with public hearings set for the spring of 2020."