POLICE in Avon and Somerset have arrested 38 sexual predators since a new anti-grooming law was brought in last April.

The law, which allows officers to intervene before offenders meet and engage in sexual activity with victims, came into force in the wake of the scandal surrounding former England footballer Adam Johnson.

Johnson was jailed for six years in March 2016 for child sex offences.

The NSPCC, which campaigned for the new law, says a total of 1,316 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded in just six month.

And the most common methods of grooming involved Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, according to the children's charity.

Somerset County Gazette:

In Avon and Somerset, 19 of the 38 people suspected of beraching the new law were in their 20s, with one ion their 70s, a total of 14 aged between 30 and 59, three 18 or 19 and one under 17.

Girls aged 12 to 15 are the most likely to be targeted and the youngest recorded citims were just seven-years-old.

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The NSPCC launched its campaign in the wake of the case against Johnson, who sent sexual messages to a 15-year-old girl before meeting her and engaging in sexual activity.

The charity has welcomed the move by the Government to tackle grooming, but is calling for more action.

It wants to see:

  • Groomer alerts for children, with grooming langauge be picked up uising algorithms allowing youngesters to think twice about chats they're having and offering support if needed;
  • The Home Office working with socialnetworks so grooming suspects can be automatically flagged to moderators.
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Tony Stower, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: "Despite the staggering number of grooming offences in just six months, Government and social networks are not properly working together and using all the tools available to stop this crime from happening.

"Government's internet safety strategy must require social networks to build in technology to keep their young users safe, rather than relying on police to step in once harm has already been done.

"If government makes a code for social networks that is entirely optional and includes no requirement for platforms to tackle grooming, this is a massive missed opportunity and children will continue to be put at risk."

The NSPCC is calling for a proper code, with safe accounts for under 18s containing extra protection such as grooming alerts; it should be mandatory, not voluntary; and social networks that don't follow the code should be fined.

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