Police have recorded more than 50 offences of abusers in Lincolnshire meeting children after grooming them over the last five years – but from today police will have the powers to stop groomers sooner.
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 that law into force in England and Wales, leaving police hands tied and preventing them from arresting groomers until they meet the child or sexually abuse them.
Police recorded 52 offences of meeting a child following sexual grooming in Lincolnshire between March 2011 and March 2016.
Across England and Wales, the total has risen from 371 in the year to March 2012 to 1,021 in the year to March 2016.
The NSPCC pressured the Government to urgently bring in this anti-grooming law. From today 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. 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.”