The number of sex offences against children in Hertfordshire has risen over five years, according to a charity.

The NSPCC is calling for urgent action to prevent abuse against children as it found police forces across the East of England recorded more than 23 sexual offences every day on average against people under 18 between April 2019 and March 2020.

Across the region, there were a total of 8,579 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in 2019/20 – up 60 per cent in the five years since 2014/15. 

And in Hertfordshire, the county’s police force recorded a total of 1,051 child sex offences between 2019/20 – up from 607 between 2014/15.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Dalton, who leads Hertfordshire Constabulary’s child safeguarding teams, said: “We are committed to providing the very best service for victims of child sexual abuse and their families, regardless of whether they are reporting a crime that happened recently or an offence that occurred decades ago.

“The Constabulary has dedicated teams of specialist officers and staff who deal solely with investigations of child abuse, and have recently increased the number of detectives who respond to reports that can be complex and challenging to investigate.

"This increase in resources recognises the rise in numbers of victims and survivors who have had the courage to bring their experiences to the attention of the authorities."

He added: “We have strong working relationships with partners across the county, including in the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) – something that is fundamentally important in allowing us to reacting quickly to reports and referrals.

“Sexual abuse can be hidden from even those closest to the victim but a minor concern is often the catalyst for a police investigation, so I would encourage the public to make contact with us if they have any concerns about a child they know.

“Victims can be assured that we will strive to achieve justice for them, and take every step possible to intervene against perpetrators and prevent other children becoming victims in the future."

The figures, which were obtained by the NSPCC through a Freedom of Information request, show that across the UK 44 police forces recorded 73,518 child sex offences in 2019/20, similar to the 73,379 the previous year but up 57 per cent from 46,738 in 2014/15.

Some 449 sex crimes were committed against babies in the UK before they reached their first birthday in the past year, the NSPCC said.

The data also suggests girls were four times more likely to be victims than boys.

The figures were released as an NSPCC report found contacts to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled during the coronavirus lockdown with an average of 23 per week since March 23.

"It started during lockdown," one 17-year-old girl said.

"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."

A third of counselling sessions were about abuse in the family that happened over a year ago, with many children talking about it for the first time.

A 15-year-old girl told Childline: “My dad touched me sexually when I was younger and now I have to be home all the time with him and I can’t deal with it. Just being in the house with him is so hard. I am constantly reminded of what he did.”

The NSPCC is urging the Government to publish its strategy to tackle child sexual abuse announced by then home secretary Sajid Javid in June last year.

The charity is calling for departments, including the Home Office, Department of Education and Ministry of Justice to join up efforts to prevent abuse.

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."

Mr Wanless added: "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."

Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000. Adult victims of non-recent sexual abuse can also get in touch for support.

Childline is available for young people on 0800 1111 or at