‘DISTURBING’: Figures show 59 children aged four to eight were preyed on by Wiltshire paedophiles last year
ALMOST 60 children under-nine were reported to police as sexual abuse victims last year, figures show.
Of 59 victims logged by Wiltshire Police, 17 were just four-years-old.
Children’s charity the NSPCC, which obtained the figures, described the numbers as deeply disturbing. The charity, which runs helpline Childline, has re-launched its Talk PANTS campaign aimed at helping parents of children aged eight and under to speak to their youngsters about sexual abuse.
Det Supt Deb Smith of Wiltshire Police said the force had specialist investigators trained to probe child sex abuse. She pledged: “The length of time which has passed since the abuse has taken place is irrelevant, as we will investigate reports of abuse regardless of how long ago it took place and bring offenders to justice.”
Nationally, last year there were more than 7,600 sexual offences committed against children aged four to eight.
In Wiltshire, 59 sexual offences were logged by the county force as having been committed against four to eight-year-olds. They included 17 victims aged just four and 16 victims aged five.
A spokesman for NSPCC in the south west said: “The number of sexual offences against young children in Wiltshire is deeply disturbing and it’s really important that we do more to keep all young people safe from sexual abuse.
“There are potential signs that a parent can look out for, including a child’s fear of some people, places or locations. And they may also be more secretive than usual or have signs of abuse, such as bruising.
“Anyone with concerns about a child can call the NSPCC’s Helpline on 0808 800 5000.”
Det Supt Deb Smith, head of public protection at Wiltshire Police, said: “We continue to work closely with our partner agencies across Wiltshire and Swindon to address sexual offences committed against children and young people and a lot of this work focuses on raising awareness in relation to preventing offences of this nature from happening. We have dedicated teams of investigators who have received specialist training in investigating abuse offences committed against children.
“We do not underestimate the impact that crimes of this nature can have on young people and we fully understand how difficult it can be to report abuse like this to the police.”
This year has seen a series of high-profile Wiltshire paedophiles jailed for shocking abuses committed against vulnerable youngsters.
In January, Royal Wootton Bassett teen Sophie Elms became Britain’s youngest female paedophile when she was jailed for almost eight years for molesting two toddlers.
The 18-year-old was babysitting the young children when she filmed herself abusing them and sent the images to other paedophiles. Passing sentence, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “Only time will tell what damage you have inflicted.”
In one of the images the tot was drinking milk from a baby bottle as Elms indecently touched her.
The teen was unmasked after a paedophile ring was smashed by West Mercia Police and communication found between Elms and convicted sex offender David Geering. WhatsApp and other messages showed he had encouraged her to send him movies of her abusing the children, and she had done as he asked.
And Wiltshire’s most prolific paedophile, Peter Daniels, was given six life sentences in February after he was convicted of more than 100 vile crimes against children – including some as young as two-years-old.
Sentencing him at Salisbury Crown Court, Judge Richard Parkes described the 70-year-old as an expert in child grooming.
Daniels gained access to his victims by befriending often vulnerable family members and grooming not only the children involved, but their parents. Victim statements from parents of Daniels’ young victims said they felt blame for failing to protect their children.
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