Big rise in reports of child sex abuse cases in Shropshire and Mid Wales
The number of child sex offences recorded by police rose to a record high last year – with figures in the West Mercia force area up by 14 per cent.
In the neighbouring Dyfed-Powys force area the increase rocketed by 63 per cent.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 1,786 cases of child sex abuse were reported to West Mercia Police during 2016/17.
This was up from 1,569 the previous year.
A total of 512 crimes in West Mercia were recorded against children aged 10 and under, while 137 of these crimes were perpetrated against children four and under.
The internet also appears to be playing a growing role in the number of offences committed.
Last year, some 213 offences recorded by West Mercia Police were flagged as having an online element - an increase of 87 per cent compared to the previous year.
The figures reflect a national trend, which saw the total number of recorded sex offences against children rise to a record 64,667 last year, according to the figures obtained by the NSPCC.
This marked a 15 per cent increase on the year before – with an offence recorded on average every eight minutes.
Crimes recorded in West Mercia include rape, sexual assault and grooming – with eight offences recorded against babies aged one or younger.
But the NSPCC said the real figures are likely to be much higher, as many children may not have come forward out of fear or embarrassment.
Some may not even realise they have been abused, the charity added.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.
“These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal.
"That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives."
Mr Wanless said the increase suggested that those affected were now more confident in going to the police.
“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children," he said.
Superintendant Richard Long said: “The statistics presented by the NSPCC show a rise in the number of reports of sex offences against under-18s in 2016/17 compared to the year before.
"A fairly similar rise is seen among adults too, so we believe it’s a strong indicator that people of all ages are feeling more empowered and confident than ever before to report such incidents, which include historical sex offences.
“That confidence is likely to be down to many factors including high profile cases in the media, a greater-than-ever number of ways to report sexual crimes, and relentless campaigning done by organisations such as the NSPCC.”