Nearly 100 child cruelty offenses have been recorded by Hertfordshire Police in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
The smiling face of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was tortured by his father and stepmother before killing him in June 2020, will be a forever reminder of the devastation that child abuse can cause innocent lives.
But tragically, the six-year-old is just one of thousands of children in the UK who have been abused during the pandemic.
Home Office data shows Hertfordshire Police recorded 85 child cruelty crimes in 2020-2021 – up from 45 the year before.
The number of offenses recorded during this period was more than double the 42 recorded in 2012-2013, when recordings began.
In England and Wales, child cruelty offenses jumped 12% to a record high of 25,000 last year, despite authorities struggling to identify some of those at risk in the framework of national blockades and school closures.
Nationally, offenses have almost quadrupled since 2012-13, with forces recording more than 130,000 crimes in less than a decade.
Of these, 419 have been registered by Hertfordshire Police.
The government said the dramatic increase in the number of offenses nationwide was likely due to improved registration rather than child cruelty cases.
However, the National Council of Chiefs of Police and the NSPCC children’s charity believe there is more to be done to protect children.
Pierre Hyman, senior policy officer at NSPCC, called for government investment to strengthen protection and ensure authorities work together to tackle the problem.
He added: “It is concerning to see the number of child cruelty offenses increase so dramatically year after year, especially in the wake of the tragic case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
“We have also seen an increase in calls to our child abuse and neglect helpline.
“We need political leadership to ensure that child victims of abuse are supported in the criminal justice system.
Separate figures show that the majority of the 78 child cruelty cases closed by Hertfordshire Constabulary last year never made it to criminal courts.
The force transferred 17 cases to other authorities for further investigation.
Only 1,000 of the more than 24,000 cases cleared by police forces nationwide last year resulted in a charge or subpoena, the figures show.
And recent figures from the Department of Education show that two-thirds of children in the care of councils across England are in care due to abuse.
Child Welfare Chiefs Council National Police Chief Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley said police are working closely with other authorities to address cruelty to children , but said there were “complex challenges” to overcome.
He added: “We encourage anyone who thinks a child is being abused to report their concerns, no matter how small they may seem.”
A government spokeswoman said the police must use whatever powers they have to investigate and record child abuse.
She said a national review was underway and a targeted inspection had been launched following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Last year the government provided £ 11million for the See, Hear, Respond program, which aimed to support vulnerable young people during the pandemic. He also made £ 1.8million available to the NSPCC to expand and promote its hotline.
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This notice was published: 2021-12-14 11:55:27