THERE was a 58% increase in the number of recorded sexual offences against children in Hampshire in the last four years, it has been revealed.
The National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said there was an “all time high” in the numbers across the UK which constituted a “national crisis”.
Responding, Hampshire police said an increase of non-recent crimes being reported helped account for the rise – highlighting the high-profile case of ex-Southampton football coach Bob Higgins. He was convicted of multiple related historical offences.
The NSPCC data shows in 2014/15 there were 1,734 recorded sexual offences against children under 18, compared with 2,748 in 2018/19. That accounts for the 58% rise.
Overall in the UK there were 76,204 recorded offences including rape, grooming and sexual assault against children in the UK in 2018/19 – an average of one every seven minutes.
Where the age of the victim was provided, 16,773 offences were recorded against children aged 10 and under, with 341 of the offences against babies under a year old.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “These children are bravely disclosing what happened to them but in too many cases there is not enough timely, joined-up and child-friendly support. Instead they are shunted from overstretched service to service.
“We need a radical rethink in the way we help these young people, otherwise they could struggle for the rest of their lives with long-term, deep-seated trauma.”
The charity called for the provision of specialised services around the country, with an emphasis on early collaborative support from police, local NHS services, children’s services and advocacy for children who have experienced sexual abuse, offered in child-friendly spaces.
Questioned on the figures, a Hampshire police spokeswoman said: “Some of the increase will include non-recent child abuse cases, where we saw a rise in reporting following some high-profile national cases. We have also seen our own high-profile case involving Bob Higgins.
“Nationally there has been a sharp rise in non-recent child abuse allegations as victims have seen how effective the police have been in investigating these crimes. There has also been an improvement in the way we record allegations.”
She stressed the force continued to work in partnership with other agencies to combat offending and prevent re-offending, and counted NSPCC as “a key partner”.
The spokeswoman also cited specific schemes Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane had helped develop.
Those included the Victim Care Service, which supports victims of crime from the age of four, and the Frankie Worker Service, a dedicated counselling initiative set up in partnership with NHS England and Hampshire clinical commissioning groups.