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Sharp rise in cyber-sex crimes against children across region

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There's been a sharp increase in cyber-related sex crimes against children in Dorset and Wiltshire, according to research by the NSPCC.

Last year there were 82 cyber-related sexual offences against children under 18 reported to Dorset Police. That is up from 28 offences in 2016.

In Wiltshire, there was a five-fold increase, with 54 offences reported.

In the Thames Valley, reports have increased by 22 percent in four years.

Over the last twelve months, 369 cyber-related sexual offences against under 18s were reported to Thames Valley Police

The NSPCC is calling for the next Prime Minister to prioritise online safety.

Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy says: "The figures are hugely significant and hugely concerning because what they really underline is the increasing scale and complexity of the online threat. We know that groomers increasingly are able to use social networks to cast the net wide and to contact large numbers of children and to do so incredibly easily and that's why we need to see the Government now step in. We need to see statutory regulation of these sites, it's the only way that social networks will keep children safe."

The children’s charity said a record 8,224 child sexual offences logged by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year had an online element – an average of 22 a day.

The charity, which obtained the data through a freedom of information request and received responses from 40 out of 44 police forces, urged the Government to prioritise new laws that offer new levels of online safety for young people.

According to the figures, 13 was the most common age of victims where ages were recorded, while 185 offences were committed against children aged 10 and under, the NSPCC said.