Hundreds of child abuse image offences recorded in Herts

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More than 600 child abuse image offences have been recorded in Hertfordshire over the last two years.

The new figures also show that an offence was recorded on average every 23 minutes across the UK.

And now child protection charity, the NSPCC, is calling for a new independent regulator to hold social networks to account and tackle grooming to cut off the supply of these images.

Tony Stower, the NSPCC’s head of child safety online, said: “Every one of these images represents a real child who has been groomed and abused to supply the demand of this appalling trade.

“The lack of adequate protections on social networks has given offenders all too easy access to children to target and abuse.

“This is the last chance saloon for social networks on whose platforms this abuse is often taking place.

“Our Wild West Web campaign is calling on the government to introduce a tough independent regulator to hold social networks to account and tackle grooming to cut off supply of these images at source.”

One case that was singled out by Mr Stower was the case earlier this year of 56-year-old Berkhamsted man Ricardo Dias-Cyrino who was jailed for 10 years after grooming three teenage girls and taking indecent images. All three victims were 16 years old and groomed using a messaging app.

Overall there were 309 child abuse image offences recorded in Hertfordshire in 2016-17, and 301 in 2017-18.

Detective Inspector Joanne Briggs, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s child online safeguarding team, said: “We are working in an increasingly difficult climate where social media remains a growing phenomenon – one which enables child abuse images to be shared more readily than ever.

“However I am pleased to see that the number of these types of images recorded in Hertfordshire has fallen by 3 per cent in the past two years.

“Our dedicated team of detectives and police staff will continue to seek prosecution for those individuals who choose to view, download and share these sickening images online.

“If you are concerned about someone’s online activity - or perhaps your own – you can get help and advice at https://www.stopitnow.org.uk”