Online grooming now a criminal offence

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POLICE have new powers to intervene when a child is groomed online – as figures show perverts are meeting more victims.

From today, sending a sexual message to a child is a crime, with the NSPCC hopeful that will prevent potential abuse.

The child cruelty charity has said there had been a 220 per cent increase in instances of abusers meeting children after grooming in the past five years.

In April 2010/11 there were 10 incidents, up to 32 in 2015/16, which is a drop from 41 in 2014/15.

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.’

The charity said it has pressured the government to bring in the anti-grooming law, which was created in 2015 but not brought into force.