SEX offences against children in Warwickshire have risen by 92 per cent in just four years – but police say this is due to increased awareness and victims being more confident in reporting incidents.
Warwickshire Police recorded 698 sexual offences against children in 2018-19, compared to 363 in 2014-5.
The figures were obtained by children’s charity the NSPCC, which claims overstretched services are failing to keep pace with demand, and calls for a radical reshaping of how support is delivered across the UK.
The charity found there were over 76,000 child sex offences in the UK last year, a record high – although the Warwickshire figure is down on the previous year’s county record of 803.
CEO Peter Wanless said: “We are facing a nationwide crisis in the help available for tens of thousands of children.
“These children are bravely disclosing what happened to them but in too many cases there is not enough timely, joined up and child-friendly support. Instead they are shunted from overstretched service to service.
“We need a radical rethink in the way we help these young people, otherwise they could struggle for the rest of their lives with long term, deep seated trauma.”
The charity is calling for the provision of specialised services around the country, with an emphasis on early joined up support from police, local NHS services, children’s services and advocacy for children who have experienced sexual abuse, offered in child-friendly spaces.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said the rise was driven by high profile cases of recent years and the efforts of the police and other agencies, including the NSPCC, to highlight the issue.
He said: “We are seeing greater confidence from victims to come forward and more referrals via the statutory agencies as the professional response is now much more sophisticated.”
He argued the force was delivering the best practice approach called for by the NSPCC, citing initiatives he has commissioned such as paediatric provision within the Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Warwickshire, which provides a 24/7 ‘one-stop’ service to anyone up to the age of 17 who has been the victim of a sex offence.
He added: “I have also commissioned RoSA to provide a sexual assault and violence support service for the whole county, which includes specialist Child Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and counsellors. Through the same contract, Barnardo’s provide the county’s Child Sexual Exploitation team.
“Similarly, I have given grant funding to the Safeline charity to fund a further Independent Sexual Violence Advisor post in the county.
“While these services may not be physically located under one roof, they are providing a comprehensive response alongside the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub to ensure that joined-up service to victims.”
Det Supt Pete Hill, Head of Vulnerability and Safeguarding for Warwickshire Police, said: “Awareness of the issue, and an increase in confidence that victims will be listened to, is something we welcome.”
He said the force takes any reports of sexual offences against children extremely seriously and is committed to tackling such crimes.
He said: “Protecting children remains a priority for us and, along with our partners, we are determined to bring anyone to justice that commits a sexual offence against a child, while providing support and safeguarding to those young people who have been affected.”