The number of sex offenders being supervised in the community has increased by nearly 80 per cent since the Jimmy Saville scandal to 62,435, according to a Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
The annual report on offenders under multi-agency protection arrangements (MAPPA) says more than one in a thousand people in the UK population are now on the sex offenders register.
There has also been a sharp rise in the number of the most dangerous “level one” serious sex and violent offenders who are up by 34 per cent compared with 2014. Nearly all bar 500 of the sex offenders are judged “level one” risk.
There has also been a sharp rise in the number of sex offenders breaching their MAPPA supervision, so seriously that they have either been convicted or cautioned for a further offence.
The number of sex offenders cautioned or convicted after breaching their MAPPA orders rose from 1,547 in 2015/16 to 2,559 in the year to March 2020.
Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on child protection, said police forces had seen a year on year increase in reported child abuse. “It is my opinion that there are more children being abused online.
“The scale of it is highlighted when you now look at the child abuse image database that has 70 million unique images on it. Every month we arrest 700 offenders for viewing indecent imagery or threatening children online.
“The covid crisis has created the perfect storm where more children have spent time online. Offenders have exploited that and as result we are having to deal with the fall out of that perfect storm.
“It has been exacerbated by the fact the social media providers and tech firms have relied on AI to remove indecent images of children. They now concede their AI is not as good as their human moderators (who have been shielding at home in Covid).
“When human moderators return to work, the police service will have to deal with a significant spike in the number of referrals it will receive as a result of the reliance on AI.”
Asked whether social media firms had done enough to combat online child abuse, he said some had improved but “so much needs to be done. Until they do an awful lot more, we are going to be dealing with year on year increases.”
He was concerned by the amount of self-generated child sex imagery. “Approximately 40 per cent of all new indecent imagery is self generated,” said Mr Bailey.
“Some of that will be through abusive and coercive relationships but a significant amount will be as a result of young people or children sharing sexualised images of themselves which is really worrying.
“I am very concerned about the statistics I am starting to see that highlight the increase in grooming offences taking place.”