Reports of child cruelty soar to record high in Essex during pandemic

Crime / Sat 18th Dec 2021 at 12:51pm

REPORTS of child cruelty have soared to a record high in Essex during the coronavirus pandemic reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The latest crime figures from the Home Office reveal that there were 1,568 cases of child cruelty recorded by police in Essex in 2020/21.

That’s up by 17 per cent from 1,344 reports the year before, and is by far the highest number ever recorded by the force.

In its 2021/21 annual report Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex Roger Hirst said demand on police relating to victims of sexual violence and abuse has grown significantly and between 2018 and 2020 new referrals into support services increased by 29 per cent.

Detective Chief Superintendent Andrew Packer, Head of Essex Police’s Crime and Public Protection Command, said: “Specialist detectives and officers in our Child Abuse Investigation Teams (CAIT) work tirelessly to protect and safeguard children and young adults across our communities.

“They work alongside partners, including schools, local authorities and social services, to monitor any reports of offences against children and encourage those who may be vulnerable, or those who may have witnessed an offence, to come forward.

“They also work with other professionals in the area to ensure that continued support is offered to those who may be suffering the physical or mental impact of abuse.

“The welfare of children, young adults and those who are most vulnerable will always be our priority and we will continue to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice.”

In Essex, just seven people were prosecuted for cruelty to children in 2020/21 – less than one per cent of the 1,568 offences recorded.

Nationally, there were 24,482 cases of child cruelty reported to police forces across England and Wales in 2020/21 – up from 21,948 in 2019/20, and a record high.

Of the cases reported last year, just 621 ended up with the suspect being charged or summonsed (3 per cent) – while 10,707 were dropped altogether (44 per cent).

While there has been an ongoing trend that has seen reports rise in recent years, it’s possible that many more cases may have been missed by authorities during the pandemic, with children out of school during lockdowns and while quarantining.

Child cruelty includes assault, ill-treatment, neglect or abandonment of a child by anyone over the age of 16, and covers both physical and psychological suffering.

In some cases this might be in the form of a single, traumatic event such as a violent attack, but more often than not the harm caused by child cruelty is the culmination of more long-term abuse or neglect.

The figures come in the wake of several high profile cases that tragically resulted in the child being killed – including Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Star was just 16 months old when she was punched to death by her mother’s girlfriend in September 2020, after suffering months of physical and psychological abuse.

Meanwhile, in a separate case six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died of a fatal brain injury in June 2020 after being deprived of food, force-fed salt and assaulted in a “campaign of appalling cruelty” during lockdown.

In both cases, social services had been alerted to potential abuse by concerned friends and family members, but chose not to intervene.

Joanna Barrett, associate head of policy at NSPCC, said: “As the country is still mourning the deaths of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, it’s concerning to see that the number of child cruelty offences have risen year on year to the highest on record.

“It mirrors the rise in contacts about abuse and neglect that we received to our helpline last year during the pandemic when many children were trapped in violent homes and more isolated from vital support networks.

“It is crucial that safeguarding agencies such as the police, schools, and children’s social services work together to prevent abuse from ever happening in the first place.

“Where it does happen, we need political leadership on ensuring child abuse victims are supported in the criminal justice system and we urge anyone with a concern to contact our free and confidential helpline for advice and support.”

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1 Comment for Reports of child cruelty soar to record high in Essex during pandemic:

2021-12-20 05:46:44

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