A NEW law aims to target child ‘grooming’ offences which have rocketed in Warwickshire.
Police recorded 19 cases of perverts meeting children in Warwickshire after grooming them online in the year to March 2016 – up from just two on the previous 12 months.
But police now have the powers to stop groomers sooner through a new law making it illegal to send sexual messages to children.
Police in England and Wales can now arrest anyone who sends such messages to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
The law was introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2015, but not initially implemented in England and Wales – prompting the NSPCC to launch their Flaw in the Law campaign.
The charity said the new law could have prevented the crimes of a Coventry gang jailed for a total of 42 years in January for grooming, raping and trafficking two young girls.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “The government 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.”
Det Ch Insp Andy Nolan of Warwickshire Police said increasing awareness and reporting of incidents have contributed to the rise in recorded offences.
He said: “People think the internet offers them anonymity to commit these offences, but thanks to improvements in education and publicity campaigns, people are becoming more aware of the issue.
“The new law means that anyone aged 18 or older who sends a child under 16 any form of communication using sexual language – whether digital, photographic, written or verbal – can face up to two years in prison and be placed on the sex offenders register.
“We welcome the new powers that will help us to protect more children, and bring to justice those who use the internet to target and groom them.”
Warwickshire’s Something’s Not Right campaign encourages anyone who sees signs of child sexual exploitation to get in touch so help and support can be provided. Visit www.somethingsnotright.org for more information.