REPORTS of sex crimes against children have more than doubled in Dorset in just five years.

Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, there has been a huge surge in claims of offences committed against youngsters.

Across England and Wales, recorded sexual offences against children have reached an all-time high, with one crime reported every seven minutes on average.

Officials from the NSPCC say children who have suffered sexual abuse will often need extensive support. However, overstretched services are failing to keep pace with demand, the charity says.

Peter Wanless, the organisation's CEO, said: “Record numbers of child sexual offences means we are facing a nationwide crisis in the help available for tens of thousands of children.

“These children are bravely disclosing what happened to them but in too many cases there is not enough timely, joined up and child-friendly support. Instead they are shunted from overstretched service to service.

“We need a radical rethink in the way we help these young people, otherwise they could struggle for the rest of their lives with long term, deep seated trauma.”

In Dorset, 332 reported sex offences were recorded in 2014/15. The number was 768 in 2018/19.

Detective Superintendent Gemma Morris, of Dorset Police, said: “The increase in reports is in line with the national rise of offences with this nature and we believe it is due to a number of factors including changes to the way we record the information.

“There has also been an increase in confidence in victims reporting such crimes to police, including non-recent sexual offences. High profile national investigations continue to raise awareness in sexual offences against children.

“The force has continued to strengthen its response and resource capability to deal with sexual offences against children, with more officers in dedicated teams such as in child sexual exploitation, the child abuse investigation team and the paedophile online investigation team.

"Officers and staff receive specific training to ensure an awareness and understanding of these often complex crimes, which affect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Dorset Police also supports multi-agency efforts toward education and awareness campaigns, encouraging victims and anyone with information about those types of offences to come forward and access support.

“The Force refers a number of victims to STARS (Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service), a pan-Dorset charity that offers one-to-one support, free of charge, for anyone of any age or gender who lives, works or studies in Dorset and has experienced any form of sexual violence in their lives.

Useful contact numbers and websites:

• Dorset Police: call 101. Always dial 999 if an emergency.

• Local Authority Children’s Social Care

o BCP Council: 01202 735046

o Dorset Council: 01305 228866

• NSPCC: 0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk

• ChildLine (for children and young people to call): 0800 11 11

• Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. www.ceop.police.uk

• CEOP resources suitable for parents and children of different ages: www.thinkuknow.co.uk

• For adults who are concerned about their behaviour: 0808 1000 900 www.stopitnow.org.uk