A LEADING children’s charity has welcomed new legislation which will tackle the huge rise in the cases of groomers meeting children across West Mercia.
Offences of adults sending explicit or sexual messages to children has doubled in West Mercia from 11 cases in 2011/12 to 22 last year.
Across England and Wales, the total has risen from 371 in the year to March 2012 to 1,021 five years later.
A total of 60 cases have been recorded in the last five years and while the number of offences had begun to fall as low as nine in 2014/15, the sudden rise provoked criticism from the NSPCC.
A law was created in 2015 to make it illegal to send sexual messages to children, following the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign.
But the Government failed to bring the law into force in England and Wales, leaving the police hands tied and preventing them from arresting groomers until they met the child or sexually abused them.
However following further pressure from the charity, Justice Secretary Liz Truss has introduced anti-grooming legislation.
From Monday (April 3) online grooming is a crime in England and Wales, meaning police will be able to arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland and since 2010 more than 1,500 offences of grooming have been recorded by police in Scotland alone.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “The Justice Secretary has done the right thing.
“This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign. It is a victory for common sense.
“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK.
“This law will give police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts,” he added.