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Norfolk police working with every high school in county to tackle child sexual exploitation

PUBLISHED: 00:57 23 May 2016 | UPDATED: 00:57 23 May 2016

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Norfolk's top policeman has today revealed the force is working with every high school in the county to try to prevent youngsters becoming victims of online child sexual exploitation.

Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s chief constable and national police lead for child sex exploitation, has warned the huge increase in reports of child sex abuse could mean that by 2020 police forces in the UK could be investigating 200,000 cases compared to the 70,000 they probed last year.

Mr Bailey said the rise of reports – which went up 80pc between 2012 and 2015 – was continuing and described how his officers were trying to stem this terrible tide by making young people aware of the dangers that existed of going online and of the risks posed by paedophiles.

Mr Bailey said: “In Norfolk we’re really putting a lot of effort into tackling the online threat posed by those individuals who are viewing indecent images of children.

“We’re executing search warrants every week targeting these individuals because we know from research that anywhere up to 50pc of those people viewing are, or have been, contact offenders.

“We’re doing a huge amount of work in schools to try to prevent the abuse taking place in the first place.

“That work we’re doing with schools is so important – we’ve got a presence in every high school in the county and we’re going to great lengths to teach young children about the risks of going online and about the risks of sharing lewd images of themselves.”

Mr Bailey said they were going to great lengths not to criminalise those people who uploaded images of themselves but to work with them to raise awareness about the risks of doing so and engaging with people online who they do not know.

He has spoken out at a time when it has emerged cases of child sex abuse in England and Wales are being passed to police at a rate of 100 a month by the public inquiry set up following the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Mr Bailey, who is head of the Operation Hydrant probe into historic abuse cases, said: “It’s fair to say I’m surprised by the extent of abuse being exposed. It is shocking.

“In trying to get a message across to the public about the scale of this, it is important to remember that behind each of these figures there is a victim. We are seeing a significant number in the number of referrals each month from the Goddard inquiry, and these allegations relate to abuse in a range of institutions from the church, to schools, the scouts and hospitals.”

The Goddard public inquiry – set up in the aftermath of the Savile scandal – is expected to hand over 30,000 new reports of child sex offences by the time it ends.

Have you got a crime story? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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