More than 200 children a day were the victims of sex offences last year, of which more than one a day involved a baby aged under one, police figures show.
Police recorded 73,518 recorded offences against children in 2019/20 including rape, online grooming and sexual assault – up 57 per cent in the five years since 2014/15, according to the data obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the children’s charity NSPCC.
Girls were four times as likely to be victims with 14 the most common age with 8,000 offences recorded against them.
There were 12,374 sex crimes recorded against children under ten, while 449 offences involved babies yet to reach their first birthday.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “The crisis of child sexual abuse is not going away and behind these figures are thousands of children and young people who have reported crimes that can have a devastating impact on their lives.
“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when they bravely speak out.
“We need concerted leadership from governments across the UK to implement strategies on tackling child sexual abuse that put the experiences and needs of children at their heart and are effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”
A total of 44 out of 45 police forces across the UK provided the NSPCC with the latest data on sexual offences against under 18s.
They were marginally up on last year’s figures, although Greater Manchester’s data, one of the biggest authorities, was not available for 2018/19.
The NSPCC urged the Home Office to publish and implement its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy which was announced by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year but has not yet been published.
Today the NSPCC publishes a report on child abuse during lockdown which found there were an average of 23 contacts to Childline per week about child sexual abuse in the home, up threefold since March 23 when lockdown began.
Some children told Childline that sexual abuse had become more frequent during lockdown, as they were spending more time with their abuser.
One 17-year-old girl said: “It started during lockdown, about seven weeks ago. Dad touched me and got me to touch him. Today he came into my room and removed his trousers and asked me to do something to him and I did it. I don’t want to live here anymore. I feel I should tell social services about how abusive dad is, but I don’t feel ready to tell them about the sexual abuse part.”