Alarming figures reveal 521 child sex offences linked to eight websites in the last three years

Internet grooming story
Internet grooming story
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Sexual predators are using common apps and social media sites – such as Facebook and Twitter – to target children in Lancashire, shocking new figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information disclosure showed in the last three financial years Lancashire Police recorded 521 reports of child sexual offences involving a string of eight social media websites - and this is not including reports about children targeted via dating apps.

Almost half of the cases - 248 - were recorded in the last year alone highlighting a proliferation in offenders using social media to target youngsters compared to the previous two years.

Over a three year period almost two fifths, 171, of cases were closed. Just a tenth, 51, led to a charge or summons, and 21 other offenders were cautioned.

Police said 101 reports are currently subject to an active investigation.

But 106 other cases had ‘evidential difficulties’, and a further 40 cases were deemed not in the public interest to pursue.

Three more prosecutions were prevented because the offender was too ill and another because the offender was under 10, below the criminal age of responsibility.

The remainder were given other disposals such as a community resolution.

The majority of the offences, 434, involved allegations of sexual activity with a child, but 35 involved grooming allegations, four involved an abuse of a position of trust and 26 concerned a rape allegation.

Across the three years, Facebook was named in the crime description of 261 cases, while 123 highlighted Snapchat, 51 were linked to Instagram, 47 named ooVoo, 39 involved Skype, 16 cited Whatsapp, four mentioned Muscial.ly, and three involved Twitter.

Today, a spokesman for the National Crime Agency which operates the Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP) centre said: “There are many ways in which people engage with each other online and we know that those with a sexual interest in children will seek to exploit tools such as social media for their own ends.

“Information and guidance for children and young people on how to stay safe online and when using social media platforms, as well as information for parents and teachers, is available on our dedicated website www.thinkuknow.co.uk.”

521

reports of child sexual offences
involving a string of eight social media
websites to Lancashire Police in the
last three years.

434

number of offences involving social media in the last three years in
Lancashire which involved
allegations of sexual activity
with a child

35

reports of grooming children
involving social media in the last
three years in Lancashire

26

reports of child rape linked to social media sites in the last three years

261

the number of child sexual
offences reported in the last three years which named Facebook

123

the number of child sexual
offences reported in the last three years which named Snapchat

51

the number of child sexual offences
reported in the last three years which
named Instagram

47

the number of child sexual offences
reported in the last three years which named ooVoo

39

the number of child sexual offences
reported in the last three years which
involved Skype

16

the number of child sexual offences
reported in the last three years 
which named Whatsapp

4

the number of child sexual offences
reported in the last three years
which mentioned Muscial.ly