180 grooming crimes recorded in Nottinghamshire since 2013

The NSPCC is calling on the government to bring in more regulation on social media
The NSPCC is calling on the government to bring in more regulation on social media

Police in Nottinghamshire have recorded 180 grooming crimes in the last four years, new figures have shown.

Nationally, 6,341 grooming crimes have been recorded by police in England and Wales between April 1 2013 and December 31 2017, the Home Office figures show.

And during the same period, 180 grooming offences were recorded by Nottinghamshire Police.

Between April and December 2017, there were a total of 2,996 grooming crimes recorded across England and Wales, which included the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child - brought into force in April 2017 - as well as offences for Meeting a Child After Grooming.

In Nottinghamshire, 102 grooming crimes were reported from April to December 2017.

The NSPCC's #WildWestWeb campaign is now calling on Culture Secretary Matt Hancock to bring in a mandatory safety code to regulate social networks to keep children safe online and help prevent grooming.

Last week, the charity revealed that Facebook and Facebook-owned apps Instagram and Whatsapp were used in 52 per cent of online grooming cases where police disclosed which methods were used by suspects. The youngest child to be targeted in the first nine months of the new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child was just two years old.

Tony Stower, NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online, said: "These thousands of crimes show the sheer scale of grooming, where predators have either messaged their victim or gone on to meet them in person.

"At present our government is only prepared to tackle grooming after the harm has been done, and its forthcoming Internet Safety Strategy has no plans to prevent grooming from happening in the first place.

"Culture Secretary Matt Hancock could change this and bring an end to the Wild West Web. I urge him to bring in regulation for social networks, backed by an independent regulator with teeth."