NSPCC calls for robust laws to protect children as recorded sexual communication offences rise
* Total of 82 crimes of Sexual Communication with a Child recorded by PSNI last year.
* UK Government’s new laws to end Wild West Web must tackle grooming on social media
NSPCC Northern Ireland is calling for new laws to tackle online grooming to be as robust as possible and is demanding an end to the ‘Wild West Web’.
The PSNI recorded 82 offences of sexual communication with a child last year (2017/18), an increase on the previous year with 82 offences in 2017 and 19 in 2016. The sharp rise in proscecutions demonstrates the scale of potential grooming in today’s online world.
Where the victims was identified, girls aged between 12 -15 were recorded in the majority of cases.
Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, the UK Government recently announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as online grooming.
The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to truly keep children safe. It is calling on the UK Government to:
* Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow;
* Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites
* Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports;
* Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.
It comes ahead of the NSPCC’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday 20 June and has the theme Growing Up Online.
Policy manager for NSPCC Northern Ireland, Colin Reid, said: “It is important to remember that every single sexual message sent to a child is abuse, which can leave a lasting impact for years to come.
“Social networks have self-regulated and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result. We would urge the UK government to follow through on their promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.
“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children into their platforms, including algorithms to detect online grooming to prevent communicating with children from escalating into something even worse.
“We would also urge our local politicians, when we gain a new executive, to think of a robust and workable E-Safety strategy to drive this forward locally. We know that the online world is not easy to regulate, but we cannot be complacent when we are talking about child abuse.”
For more information on our #WildWestWeb campaign, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/wildwestweb