Cases of child sex abuse reported to police have risen by more than 60 percent in the last four years, according to official figures for England and Wales.
Data obtained through
Freedom of Information (FoI) requests indicate the number of
offenses reported to police jumped from 5,557 in 2011 to 8,892
Yet over the same period, the number of arrests for child sex
abuse fell 9 percent, from 3,511 to 3,208.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accused the government of
failing to tackle a growing “national scandal.”
The legal definition of child sexual abuse includes grooming,
facilitating abuse and rape of a child.
The data, which was based on the responses of 33 out of 41 police
forces in England and Wales, indicates that many areas have seen
the number of reported cases double over the past four years.
South Yorkshire police force saw the biggest rise in reported
child sex abuse, with a 577 percent increase from 74 in 2011 to
501 in 2014.
Despite the substantial rise in reported cases, the number of
arrests made by South Yorkshire police last year was just 57, a
small increase on the 50 arrests made in 2011.
Cooper, who submitted the FoI requests, told the Guardian:
“This is a national scandal. This isn’t a problem from the
past. It is a growing problem the government should be
confronting right now.”
“Victims of child sex abuse are being let down when alongside
a 60 percent increase in reports there has been a 9 percent drop
in arrests for child sex abuse, as well as falling prosecutions
and convictions for child abuse offences as the police are unable
to keep up.”
Cooper said the figures are evidence that Home Secretary Theresa
May is wrong when she argues fewer police are needed because
crime is falling.
She added that crime was changing, with more complex and
difficult offenses emerging.
Cooper said the Conservative government’s plan to axe a further
20,000 police officers during the next parliament would prove
damaging in the fight against child abuse.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the
general rise in child sex offenses is partly due to the impact of
Operation Yewtree, an ongoing investigation into historical sex
abuse perpetrated by celebrities such as Jimmy Salvile.
Alan Wardle, head of policy and public affairs for the National
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), said:
“In recent years there has been a huge increase in awareness
of child sexual abuse and it’s good that more people are coming
“Since the Operation Yewtree police investigation was
launched in 2012, the NSPCC helpline has seen a huge rise in the
number of victims willing to speak out, get support and help
bring abusers to justice.
“In the year after Yewtree was launched there was an 81
percent increase in calls about sexual abuse to the NSPCC
helpline and this surge continues.
“When children take the extremely difficult step of reporting
abuse we need to ensure they are properly supported and get the
help they need when they are brave enough to give evidence in
court,” he added.