Paedophiles have been trapped grooming kids as young as 12 after a new law was brought in.

Statistics show 28 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded by Staffordshire Police and 18 offences by Derbyshire Police since the offence was created in April.

A charity which seeks to protect youngsters in Burton and South Derbyshire has praised the law it campaigned for after it helped detect more than 1,300 child grooming crimes nationally.

Now the NSPCC is calling for the government and social networks to develop the technology which is already at their disposal to prevent grooming.

The majority of victims in the two counties were aged between 12 and 15, prompting the charity to urge the government to bring in new grooming alerts for victims and moderators.

The charity has long campaigned for the crime of grooming to be taken more seriously and has spoken at length about the tragic story of Measham teenager Kayleigh Haywood, who was groomed online by a stranger and subsequently raped and murdered in November 2015.

The 15-year-old Ashby School student's story rocked the country and a film detailing the risks of grooming and sexual exploitation was created, entitled Kayleigh's Love Story. The film tells how Kayleigh received an unsolicited message via Facebook from 27-year-old Ibstock resident Luke Harlow.

Measham teenager Kayleigh Haywood
Measham teenager Kayleigh Haywood was groomed and murdered in November 2015

During the next 13 days, Harlow bombarded Kayleigh with messages containing expressions of bogus affection before she finally agreed to spend the evening at his house. She ended up staying there for some 36 hours before fleeing in the early hours, only to be pursued by Harlow's neighbour 28-year-old Stephen Beadman.

A short while later, Beadman dragged Kayleigh into some nearby woods, where he raped and then murdered the schoolgirl.

Before the new law came into force, police could not intervene until groomers met their victims, however the new offence of "sexual communication with a child" was introduced last year.

Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England and Wales show that 1,316 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded in just six months, with Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram the most common methods used by groomers, in 63 per cent of cases.

The youngest victims were seven.

The information also showed that the youngest victims were aged seven.

Police being able to step in sooner is an important step, but the NSPCC fears that it is not enough and is asking the Home Office to work with social networks so grooming suspects can be automatically flagged to moderators.

At present algorithms - mathematical internet search programs - already automatically flag child abuse images, hate speech and extremist content to moderators for removal but the charity is asking the Home Office to work with industry to use existing technology to flag unusual account patterns associated with grooming behaviours. For example, friending and following many young people with no mutual friends and no geographic links, getting a high number of rejected friend requests from children, or spikes in views of posts made by under-18 accounts.

Where moderators believe criminal activity is taking place, they can notify police.

Tony Stower, NSPCC head of child safety online, said: "Despite the staggering number of grooming offences in just six months, government and social networks are not properly working together and using all the tools available to stop this crime from happening.

"The Government’s internet safety strategy must require social networks to build in technology to keep their young users safe, rather than relying on police to step in once harm has already been done.

"If Government makes a code for social networks that is entirely optional and includes no requirement for platforms to tackle grooming, this is a massive missed opportunity and children will continue to be put at risk."

Children who are worried about inappropriate messages online can contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or using the online chat function at

New grooming offence – England and Wales

The new offence of Sexual Communication with a Child, under s.67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, came into force in April 2017 in England and Wales following the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign, which called for a clear new offence that would make it always illegal for an adult to send a child a sexual message.

This offence could not be used by police for two years of the law being created because the Justice Minister failed to bring forward a commencement order.

In Scotland, this is covered by the offence of Indecent Communication with a Child, within the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

In Northern Ireland the Justice Act 2015 makes it illegal to have any sexual communication with a child, which has been in force since February 2016.