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Grooming cases up by a third in a year

THE number of online grooming crimes recorded by police has risen by a third, a charity has revealed.

A total of 4,373 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded in the year to April, compared with 3,217 the previous year, the NSPCC said.

Where ages were provided by police, around a fifth were aged under 12 and some were of pre-school age.

The method of communication was given in 4,000 cases over the two years, in response to NSPCC requests.

In the year to April 2019, 34 per cent of cases involved Instagram, compared to one in five cases the previous year, the charity said. Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat were the other main platforms used.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: ‘Despite the huge amount of pressure that social networks have come under to put basic protections in place, children are being groomed and abused on their platforms every day. These figures are yet more evidence that social networks simply won’t act unless they are forced to by law. The government needs to bring in regulation without delay.’

Facebook said: ‘There is no place for grooming or child exploitation on our platforms and we use technology to proactively find and quickly remove it. We also investigate reports from the community with a security team of over 30,000 people who respond to reports 24/7.’

In April, the government launched an online harms white paper that includes a statutory duty of care on technology companies.