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New five-year figures show child sex offences soar in Hertfordshire and Essex

Child sexual offences in Hertfordshire have risen 73% in the last five years in what the NSPCC calls a "crisis of abuse".

In Essex, incidents have increased by 68.2% – with both counties exceeding the 60% average for the East of England region.

According to the children's charity's research, more than 73,500 child sex offences were recorded by UK police in 2019-20 and Childline counselling sessions about sexual abuse in the family tripled during lockdown.

Police forces in the East of England recorded an average of 23 child sexual offences a day last year.

There were 8,579 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in 2019-20 – up 60% in the five years since 2014-15.

During the same period in Herts, offences rocketed from 607 to 1,051 while in Essex the toll increased from 1,293 to 2,175.

In the UK, there were 73,518 such offences recorded in 2019-20 – up 57% in the five years since 2014-15. That is equivalent to nearly 200 offences a day last year.

Where sex and age were recorded, girls were four times as likely to be victims. There were more than 8,000 offences committed against 14-year-olds, making it the most common age group to report offences.

There were 12,374 sex crimes recorded against children under 10, while 449 offences were recorded against babies yet to reach their first birthday.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "The crisis of child sexual abuse is not going away, and behind these figures are thousands of children and young people who have reported crimes that can have a devastating impact on their lives.

"Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when they bravely speak out.

"We need concerted leadership from governments across the UK to implement strategies on tackling child sexual abuse that put the experiences and needs of children at their heart and are effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover."

The NSPCC wants the anticipated Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy to bring Government departments, including the Home Office, Department for Education and Ministry of Justice, together to join up efforts to prevent sexual abuse across society.

Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000. Adult victims of non-recent sexual abuse can also get in touch for support.

Childline is available for young people on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.

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