The number of abusers meeting children after grooming them has more than doubled in Cambridgeshire over the last five years – but from today police will have the powers to stop groomers sooner.
A law was created in 2015 to make it illegal to send sexual messages to children, following the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign.
But the Government failed to bring that law into force in England and Wales, leaving police hands tied and preventing them from arresting groomers until they meet the child or sexually abuse them.
Alarmingly police recorded five offences of Meeting a Child Following Sexual Grooming in Cambridgeshire in the year to March 2016. This was up from two in 2012, according to Home Office figures.
In March, David Wagstaff, Norris Road, St Ives, was jailed after he texted phone numbers at random in a bid to groom children. He was caught after a man pretending to be a 15-year-old girl contacted Crimestoppers.
The NSPCC pressured the Government to urgently bring in this anti-grooming law, and Justice Secretary Liz Truss has finally listened.
From today online grooming is a crime in England and Wales, meaning police will be able to arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since 2010 more than 1,500 offences of grooming have been recorded by police in Scotland alone.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “The Justice Secretary has done the right thing.
“This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign. It is a victory for common sense.
“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK. This law will give police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts.”