Eight warning signs for parents as child sex offences rise in Suffolk and Essex

NSPCC online safety

NSPCC online safety - Credit: Archant

An alleged child sex offence is recorded by police almost every four hours in Suffolk and Essex in total, an investigation has revealed.

Forces around the UK logged a record 55,507 suspected sexual crimes against under-18s in 2015/16, figures obtained by the NSPCC show.

In Suffolk, the figure rose by 36% to reach 604 last year. Of these, 151 were recorded against children aged 10 and under and 26 were against children below primary school age.

In Essex, the overall figure rose by 12% to a total of 1,449, with 444 against children aged 10 and under and 69 were against children below primary school age.

The reported offences include rape, sexual assault and exploitation of children.

Suffolk Constabulary’s eight warning signs for parents to look out for:

- Staying out late or periods of going missing overnight or longer

Most Read

- Older ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or relationship with a controlling adult

- Physical injury without plausible explanation

- Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults

- Unexplained amounts of money, expensive clothing or other items

- Lack of engagement with education

- Drugs or alcohol misuse

- Unusual or increased use of mobile phone and/or the internet that causes concern

Detective Superintendent David Cutler, of Suffolk Constabulary’s protecting vulnerable people directorate, explained: “These reports are both of recent allegations but also of those that occurred many, many years ago. There are two really important messages I would want to communicate:

“The first is that it doesn’t matter when the abuse or exploitation took place. The important thing is to take that really big first step and to tell someone. I would encourage those who have been abused and exploited to come to us but I do know that this can be very hard and that it may not be the right thing for everyone. There are other organisations across the County and nationally who you can also tell. Telling someone is the start of the process for victims of these crimes to get the help that they rightly deserve. The police are just one part of the help that is available and I have seen how lives can be changed for the better as a result of taking that step.

“The second is that it is really important for all of us to know what the possible signs are that a child is being abused or exploited. Do have a look at our website www.suffolk.police.uk/advice for some easy to access guides that assist with what to look for.

“Unless we recognise the signs it is really hard to put in the right interventions and the right support. This responsibility is on the police, on other professionals, on teachers and on parents; it is a responsibility on all of us.

“If we have concerns then we must make sure these are brought to the attention of the appropriate person. Again our web-site gives some guidance on this. The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) reviews these concerns and ensures that the very best decisions are made that provide the necessary safeguarding for children.

“Suffolk police treats the abuse and exploitation of children as one of its highest priorities. We take every allegation seriously regardless of when it occurred. We have skilled and dedicated staff who work with a wide range of other professionals across the public and voluntary sector to ensure we can, together, provide the very highest possible level of service to victims of these offences.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: (The increase) is a result of victims being confident to come forward and report them to us.

“Cases involving historic abuse are still recorded as child abuse and it is our duty to investigate all these reports.”