Increase in child arrests for sex crimes

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A children’s charity has warned that pornography is now part of “life” for older children.

The startling revelation comes as figures obtained by the Yorkshire Evening Post reveal nearly a 40 per cent increase in the number of children who have been arrested for sexual offences.

Around 138 children, aged 16 and under, were arrested in West Yorkshire on suspicion of committing sex crimes last year - a rise from 101 the previous year.

Campaigners from child protection charity NSPCC said the figures were “deeply concerning”.

Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse, said: “It’s deeply concerning that children are committing sexual offences.

“For very young children, such as those of primary school age, we have to explore and understand the environment in which they are growing up in that has led to them behaving in this way.

“It could be that they have seen sexual activity that they are just too young to understand and are copying what they’ve seen.

“We also know that for many older children, pornography is now part of life.

“Easy access to hard core, degrading and often violent videos on the internet is warping young people’s views of what is normal or acceptable behaviour.

“It is also feeding into ‘sexting’ where teenagers are creating and distributing their own videos and images that are illegal and have led to prison sentences.”

Nearly 60 children have been detained by West Yorkshire Police for sexual offences between January and July this year.

But campaigners warn children are “not beyond help”.

Mr Brown added: “If we act quickly and children receive the right support, we can stop them becoming adult sex offenders.

“And, most importantly, their victims need support to overcome what has happened to them.

“Sexual offences, whether committed by another child or an adult, can have lifelong consequences.”

The YEP revealed yesterday that children as young as nine have been arrested in West Yorkshire on suspicion of a catalogue of offences including trafficking Class A drugs, homicide and burglary.

A spokeswoman for West Yorkshire Police said: “The slight rise in the number of arrests of under 17-year-olds for sexual offences in 2013 should be set against the backdrop of increased reporting of sexual offences that year; this increase was in the wake of a number of high profile cases being reported nationally and an increased awareness of the services and support available for victims of sexual offences.

“The number of arrests for the first seven months of 2014 suggest a reduction in arrests this year.”