MORE than 100 grooming offences were recorded by West Mercia Police in a period of 18 months, after a new law came into force.

New figures gathered by the NSPCC showed 140 grooming offences were reported to the force after the crime of Sexual Communication with a Child came into force in April 2017.

In that 18 month period a total of 5,161 crimes were recorded by police nationally.

National figures also showed that the recorded use of Instagram has risen dramatically. From April 2017 to September 2017, when that communication method was recorded, the social media platform was used by groomers to target and abuse children in 126 instances, whereas between April 2018 and September 2018 it was recorded 428 times – more than a 200 per cent increase.

The data obtained from 39 of the 43 forces in England and Wales, under Freedom of Information laws, also revealed that girls aged 12 to 15-years-old were most likely to be targeted by groomers, and victims included children as young as five years old.

The children’s charity is calling for new laws to force social media firms to do more to protect children, after Instagram said it “aggressively” fought grooming.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said there had been “10 years of failed self-regulation”.

“These figures are overwhelming evidence that keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks,” he said.

“We cannot wait for the next tragedy before tech companies are made to act. It is hugely concerning to see the sharp spike in grooming offences on Instagram, and it is vital that the platform designs basic protection more carefully into the service it offers young people.”

West Mercia Police was unavailable for comment.

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