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Online Safety Bill must pass, say NSPCC Cymru | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

AROUND 2,000 online grooming crimes have been detected by police in Wales over the last six years while the government delays the Online Safety Bill, according to NSPCC Cymru.

The children’s charity looked at data from Dyfed Powys Police, Gwent Police, South Wales Police and North Wales Police showing that 1,753 Sexual Communication with a Child offences were recorded since 2017-18 when the offence came into force. 

Those offences form part of a staggering 34,000 recorded across Britain in that time, with a quarter of the known victims being under-12s.

The NSPCC has been campaigning since 2017 for a new Online Safety Bill, which better takes account of offences created on social media — a format in its infancy when earlier legislation was drafted.

The data shows that 150 sites and apps have been used to groom children, but social media sites have become its centre.

Snapchat alone accounted for 26 per cent of cases, while 47 per cent on sites owned by Meta, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Sophia (whose name has been changed), now aged 19, spoke of her experience at the hands of an online predator.

She said: “He just found me on Instagram and moved to messaging me directly there.

“He had started asking for selfies of me, then asking me to take my clothes off and send photos.

“When he threatened me and started being angry, I was petrified. He used the images to control me.

“I wasn’t even allowed to use the toilet without his permission.”

Sophia said she was afraid to tell anyone because of the photos and his threats, adding: “He threatened to share the images of me with friends and family he’d found through my social media if I stopped replying.”

NSPCC Cymru is now calling on citizens and Senedd members to contact MPs with personal messages demanding progress on a Bill which has spent two years in draft.

NSPCC Cymru’s Cecile Gwilym said: “Our children’s online safety is under increasing threat, and this is profoundly worrying.

“We need to ensure that the Online Safety Bill progressing in Westminster is passed, to give children the protections they need to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

“The Welsh government needs to keep talking to colleagues in Westminster to ensure they are doing everything they can to protect children, holding them to account if not.”

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