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Child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom

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A West Midlands Police poster attempting to inform children about how to respond to online sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom has been reported in the country throughout its history.[1] In about 90% of cases the abuser is a person known to the child.[2] However well-publicised cases in recent years have involved popular entertainers, politicians, military personnel, and other officials. Child sexual abuse rings in numerous towns and cities across the UK have also drawn considerable attention.

In 2012, celebrity Jimmy Savile was posthumously identified as having been a predatory child sexual abuser for the previous six decades. Subsequent investigations, including those of Operation Yewtree, led to the conviction of several prominent "household names" in the media, allegations against prominent politicians, and calls for a public inquiry to establish what had been known by those responsible for the institutions where abuse had taken place. An Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was announced by the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, in July 2014, to examine how the country's institutions have handled their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.[3]

Categories of child sexual abuse

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command identify four broad categories of child sexual abuse in the United Kingdom, which they describe as the four "key threats" to children.

The proliferation of indecent images of children – particularly the production of still, moving and live-streaming of child abuse images.

Online child sexual exploitation – with a focus on the systematic sexual exploitation of multiple child victims on the internet.

Transnational child sexual abuse – including both transient and resident UK nationals and British citizens committing sexual offences abroad.

Contact child sexual abuse – particularly the threat posed by organised crime-associated child sexual exploitation and the risks around missing children. Within this category there are a number of recognised types.

Firstly contact child sexual abuse by lone offenders.

Secondly contact child sexual abuse by group offenders and offending associated with street gangs, of which there are two types.[4]

  • Type 1: Group offending targeting victim vulnerability. This includes street grooming gangs.
  • Type 2: Group offending as a result of a specific sexual interest in children. This group have a long- standing sexual interest in children with some having a synergy with what has been described as a paedophile "ring".[5]


The true number of offences remains doubtful, generally assumed to be larger, due to expected unreported cases of child abuse.[6] Some 90% of the sexually abused children were abused by people who they knew, and about 1 out of every 3 abused children did not tell anyone else about it.[2] The vast majority of child sex offenders in England and Wales are male, with men representing 98% of all defendants in 2015/16, and white, with whites representing 85% of convicted child sex offenders and 86% of the general population in 2011. Asians represent 8% of the general population of England and Wales as of 2011. A 2011 analysis by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command of 940 possible offenders reported for "street grooming and child sexual exploitation" found that 38% were white, 36% were Asian, while 32% were of an unknown ethnicity.[7]

  • England: In 2016–17 there were 43,522 recorded sexual offences against children under 16 years old, and a further 11,324 offences against young people aged over 16 and under 18. Police recorded 6,009 rapes of children aged under 13 years, and 6,299 rapes of children under 16 years.[8]
  • Wales: In 2016–17 there were 2,845 recorded sexual offences against children under 16 years old. Police recorded 446 rapes of children aged under 13 years, and 340 rapes of children under 16 years.[8]
  • Scotland: In 2016-17 there were 4,097 recorded sexual offences against children under 16 years old. Police recorded 196 rapes and attempted rapes of children aged 13–15 years, and 161 rapes and attempted rapes of children under 13 years.[8]
  • Northern Ireland: In 2016–17 there were 1,875 recorded sexual offences against children and young people under 18 years old. Police recorded 360 rapes and attempted rapes of children and young people aged under 18 years.[8]

Notable incidents

Notable offenders

This is an incomplete list of notable British personalities who have been convicted of child sexual abuse. It does not include notable people, such as Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith, who were publicly accused of abuse after their deaths, but never prosecuted.

  • Russell Bishop (1966 - ) - Convicted child molester and abductor. Arrested and convicted in the same year, 1990.[22]
  • Ronald Castree (1953 - ) - Sexually assaulted, kidnapped, stabbed to death an 11-year-old girl. Castree was jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years.[23]
  • Max Clifford (1943 - 2017) - Leading publicist, found guilty in March 2014 of eight indecent assaults on four girls and women aged 14 to 19,[24] and sentenced to eight years in prison.[25][26]
  • Sidney Cooke (1927 - ) - Dubbed by The Guardian as "Britain's most notorious paedophile".[27]
  • Chris Denning (1941 - ) - British disc jockey. He has been jailed several times, for indecency in 1974 at the Old Bailey, 18 months in 1985, three years in 1988, three months in 1996, four years in a Czech prison in 1998 and five years in 2008. Denning regarded them to be "unfair".[28]
  • Matthew Falder (1989 - ) - Falder was labelled as one of the most prolific and depraved offenders that the National Crime Agency (NCA) had ever encountered. Falder blackmailed and coerced his victims online into depraving and degrading themselves and then using the images to heighten his profile on paedophile sites on the dark web. Falder was convicted in February 2018 and ordered to serve 32 years in prison.[29]
  • Gary Glitter (1944 - ) - Regarded by some to be the father of glam rock, Glitter is also one of the British entertainment industry's most infamous serial sex offenders. His career ended in 1999 when he was jailed for four months after admitting to a collection of 4,000 hardcore photographs of children being abused.[30] In March 2006, he was jailed again, this time in Vietnam, for sexually abusing two girls. He served almost three years in jail.[31] In 2012, he was the first person to be arrested under Operation Yewtree - the investigation launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.[32] This led to his conviction and jailing again in the UK for a total of 16 years for sexually abusing three young girls between 1975 and 1980.[33]
  • Rolf Harris (1930 - ) - British based Australian entertainer. In 2013, Harris was arrested as part of Operation Yewtree and charged with 12 counts of indecent assault and 4 counts of making indecent images of a child. On 30 June 2014, Harris was found guilty on all 12 counts of indecent assault and on 4 July 2014 was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison for a minimum of 2 years and 10 months.[34][35]
  • Stuart Hall (1929 - ) - Radio and television presenter in North West England and nationally, who presented It's a Knockout and Jeux Sans Frontières and later reported football matches on BBC radio. He pleaded guilty in April 2013 to having indecently assaulted 13 girls, aged between 9 and 17 years old, between 1967 and 1986,[36] and was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.[37] In 2014 he was found guilty on two further charges and was sentenced to an additional 30 months in prison.[38]
  • Antoni Imiela (1954 - 2018) - Since March 2012, he had been serving 12 years in prison.[39]
  • Jonathan King (1944 - ) - English singer-songwriter, businessman. He was convicted and jailed in 2001 for sexual abuse against boys in the 1980s.[40] King was subsequently denied appeal twice on both conviction and sentence,[41] was released on parole in 2005, and continues to maintain that he was wrongly convicted.[42]
  • William Mayne (1928 - 2010) - Author of more than 130 books. In 2004 he was imprisoned for two and a half years.[43]
  • Gene Morrison (1958 - ) - On September 2009, convicted of 13 child sexual offenses, he was jailed for 5 years.[44]
  • Charles Napier (1947 - ) On 23 December 2014, convicted of grooming and sexually assaulting 21 victims at a school where he worked. Was also Treasurer of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).[45]
  • Graham Ovenden (1943 - ) - Known artist. On April 2013, found guilty of child sexual abuse, jailed for 2 years in October 2013.[46]
  • Geoffrey Prime (1938 - ) - Former British spy, convicted of child sexual abuse, during the 1980s.[47]
  • Peter Righton (1926 - 2007) - Founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Found guilty in 1992 of possession of obscene child pornography. Mentioned in Tom Watson MP's 2012 Parliamentary Question to David Cameron.[48]
  • Fred Talbot (1949 - ) - Former television presenter, best known for his role as a weatherman on ITV's This Morning programme. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years in prison, having been found guilty of indecent assault against two teenaged boys at the Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, where he had taught in the 1970s.
  • Ray Teret (1941 - ) - Former Radio Caroline DJ and friend of Jimmy Savile, he was convicted in 2014 of seven counts of rape and 11 counts of indecent assault during the 1960s and 1970s against girls as young as 12. He was jailed for 25 years.[49]
  • Tony and Julie Wadsworth - BBC radio personalities, in 2017 they were convicted of indecent assault on young boys during the 1990s.[50]
  • Ian Watkins (1977 - ) - Founding member and lead singer of the rock band Lostprophets. In November 2013, Watkins pleaded guilty to 13 charges, including the attempted rape and sexual assault of a child under 13.[51] He was subsequently jailed for 29 years and was ordered to serve a further six years on extended licence following completion of his sentence.[52]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Delap, Lucy (30 July 2015). "Child welfare, child protection and sexual abuse, 1918-1990". History & Policy. History & Policy. Retrieved 19 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Incidence and prevalence of child abuse and neglect". NSPCC. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ex-senior judge Butler-Sloss to head child sex abuse inquiry". BBC News Online. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Why Does So Much Abuse of Children Go Unreported?". Huffington Post. 26 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "What do we know about the ethnicity of people involved in sexual offences against children?". Full Fact. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 
  8. ^ a b c d Bentley, H.; et al. (2018). How safe are our children? The most comprehensive overview of child protection in the UK 2018. London: NSPCC. pp. 29–31. 
  9. ^ "Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013)". Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. 26 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Rotherham child abuse scandal: 1,400 children exploited, report finds". BBC News. 26 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "More abuse claims at children's home". 13 July 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  12. ^ "Abuse scandal dates back 50 years". 7 March 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  13. ^ Harris, Paul; Bright, Martin (6 July 2003). "The whistleblower's story". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2018. 
  14. ^ Sommerlad, Nick (2018-03-11). "UK's 'worst ever' child grooming scandal with 100s of girls sold for sex exposed". mirror. Retrieved 2018-03-22. 
  15. ^ "Gang abused girls 'on a massive scale'". 24 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  16. ^ "'Social media party' sex gang guilty". 6 March 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  17. ^ Carter, Helen (7 January 2011). "Derby sex abuse gang leaders jailed". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2018. 
  18. ^ "Sex abuse gangs jailed for grooming". 27 November 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  19. ^ "Child sex grooming network convicted". 9 August 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  20. ^ "Fifteen men jailed for child sex abuse". 17 June 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  21. ^ "Gang jailed for sex attacks on girls". 20 February 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018 – via 
  22. ^ "March over 'Babes in Wood' deaths". 10 October 2006. In 1990, Bishop was convicted and jailed for life for the kidnap, indecent assault, and attempted murder of a seven-year-old girl who was left for dead just 200 yards from her Brighton home. 
  23. ^ "Paedophile convicted of Lesley Molseed murder - after evading justice for 32 years". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Lister, Richard (28 April 2014). "Max Clifford guilty of eight indecent assaults". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  25. ^ "R v Max Clifford". Crimeline. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  26. ^ "Max Clifford jalied for eight years". BBC News. 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Kelso, Paul. "Cooke admits years of child abuse". The Guardian. 
  28. ^ "Radio 1 DJ jailed for paedophilia claims offences were consensual". The Daily Telegraph. 22 February 2010. 
  29. ^ Labhart, Jessica (19 February 2018). "How global taskforce caught 'worst' paedophile". BBC News. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  30. ^ "Glitter jailed over child porn". BBC News. 12 November 1999. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  31. ^ "Gary Glitter flown out of Vietnam". BBC News. 19 August 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  32. ^ "Jimmy Savile: Gary Glitter arrested over sex offences". BBC News. 28 October 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  33. ^ "Gary Glitter jailed for 16 years". BBC News. 27 February 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  34. ^ "Rolf Harris guilty: The moment on the witness stand he came closest to convicting himself". The Sydney Morning Herald. 1 July 2014. 
  35. ^ "Rolf Harris jailed for five years and nine months". BBC News. 4 July 2014. 
  36. ^ "Broadcaster Stuart Hall admits indecent assaults". BBC News. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  37. ^ "Stuart Hall: Sentence Doubled To 30 Months". Sky News. 26 July 2013. 
  38. ^ Stuart Hall jailed for indecent assaults BBC News, 23 May 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
  39. ^ Greenwood, Chris (22 March 2012). "M25 rapist jailed for horrific sex attack on mother-of-two 25 years ago - decade before he went on to commit series of rapes on women and children". Daily Mail. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  40. ^ "Pop mogul jailed for sex abuse". BBC News. 21 November 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  41. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (15 April 2003). "King makes fresh appeal bid". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2018. 
  42. ^ "Jonathan King freed". The Guardian. 29 March 2005. 
  43. ^ "William Mayne: Award-winning children's author whose career ended in disgrace". The Independent. 20 May 2010. 
  44. ^ "Bogus 'expert witness' jailed for five years". Daily Mail. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  45. ^ "Tory MP's half-brother who was known as 'Rapier Napier' by his pupils and helped run Paedophile Information Exchange is jailed for 13 years for HUNDREDS of sex assaults on young boys in the 60s and 70s". Daily Mail. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  46. ^ Morris, Steven (9 October 2013). "Artist Graham Ovenden jailed for two years for sexual abuse of children". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  47. ^ 1982 Life and career of spy Geoffrey Prime, News report; Interview
  48. ^ Hickman, Martin (25 October 2012). "Was there a paedophile ring in No 10? MP Tom Watson demands probe". The Independent. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  49. ^ "Former DJ Ray Teret jailed for rapes and indecent assaults". BBC News. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  50. ^ "Ex-BBC presenters Tony and Julie Wadsworth jailed for sex offences". BBC News. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017. 
  51. ^ "Lostprophets' Ian Watkins guilty of child sex offences". BBC News, Wales. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  52. ^ "Lostprophets' Ian Watkins sentenced to 35 years over child sex offences". BBC News, Wales. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 

External links