Police have recorded more than 50 offences of abusers in Lincolnshire meeting children after grooming them over the last five years – but from today officers will have the powers to stop offenders 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.
However the NSPCC said 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 from March 2011 to 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.
From 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.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “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.”