Figures show hundreds of child cruelty offences recorded in Wigan during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic
Hundreds of Wigan child cruelty offences were recorded during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
The smiling faces of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, both murdered by supposed loved ones, will forever be a reminder of the devastation child abuse can wreak upon innocent lives.
But tragically, the six-year-old boy is just one of thousands of children in the UK to have been abused during the pandemic.
Home Office data shows GMP logged 480 crimes of child cruelty involving looked-after children in Wigan in 2020-21 – up from 373 the year before.
The number of offences logged during that time was 33 per cent higher than the 362 recorded in 2012-13, when records began.
Across England and Wales, child cruelty offences leapt by 12 per cent to a record 25,000 last year, despite authorities struggling to identify some of those at risk amid national lockdowns and school closures.
Nationally, offences have almost quadrupled since 2012-13, with forces recording more than 130,000 crimes in less than a decade. Of those, 4,185 were logged by GMP.
The Government said the dramatic national increase in offences is likely to have been driven by improvements in recording, rather than in instances of child cruelty.
However, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and children’s charity the NSPCC believe there is more to be done to protect children.
Pierre Hyman, senior policy officer at the NSPCC, said: “To see year after year the number of child cruelty offences rise so dramatically is concerning, particularly following the tragic case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
“We have similarly seen a rise in calls to our helpline around child abuse and neglect. We need political leadership on ensuring child abuse victims are supported in the criminal justice system.”
Separate figures show the majority of the 452 child cruelty cases closed by Greater Manchester Police last year were never brought before the criminal courts – just 50 (11%) resulted in a charge or summons being issued, though some matters may have been addressed in the family courts. The force transferred 24 cases (five per cent) to other authorities for further investigation.
Just 1,000 out of more than 24,000 cases closed by police forces nationally last year ended with a charge or summons, the figures show.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for child protection, deputy chief constable Ian Critchley, said police worked closely with other authorities to tackle child cruelty but said there were “complex challenges” to overcome.
He added: “We encourage anyone who believes a child is being abused to report their concerns, no matter how small they seem.”
A Government spokeswoman said the police were expected to use all powers available to them to investigate and record child
They said a national review was under way and a targeted inspection was launched following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Last year, the Government provided £11m to the See, Hear, Respond programme, which aimed to support vulnerable young people during the pandemic.
It also made £1.8m available to the NSPCC to expand and promote its helpline.
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