Rise in child grooming offences in Cambridgeshire

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More child groomers have been caught in Cambridgeshire than ever before.

New figures released by the NSPCC show that in 2016/17 there were 53 incidents of child grooming in Cambridgeshire, compared to just 15 the previous year.

In total, there have been 88 offences recorded since April 1 2013.

The NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign is calling on Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to bring in a mandatory safety code to regulate social networks to keep children safe online and help prevent grooming.

Mr Hancock is in the process of drawing up an Internet Safety Strategy, but it is expected to bring in a social media safety code which is voluntary in nature and the Strategy will include no plans to prevent grooming.

Last week the NSPCC revealed that Facebook and Facebook-owned apps, Instagram and Whatsapp, were used in 52% of online grooming cases where police disclosed which methods were used by suspects. The youngest child to be targeted in the first nine months of the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child was just two years old.

Tony Stower, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online, said: “These thousands of crimes show the sheer scale of grooming, where predators have either messaged their victim or gone on to meet them in person.

“At present our Government is only prepared to tackle grooming after the harm has been done, and its forthcoming Internet Safety Strategy has no plans to prevent grooming from happening in the first place.

“Culture Secretary Matt Hancock could change this and bring an end to the Wild West Web. I urge him to bring in regulation for social networks, backed by an independent regulator with teeth.”