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Social media used to groom children young as six

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CHILDREN as young as six in Wales have been targeted across an array of online platforms in the first year following the introduction of anti-grooming laws.

A law of Sexual Communication with a Child came into effect in England and Wales on April 3, 2017, after an NSPCC campaign, and in the first year a total of 3,171 crimes were recorded by police forces – amounting to nine grooming offences per day.

A total of 274 offences were recorded across the four Welsh police forces in the same period.

More than half of the offences in Wales were logged by South Wales Police (158) with 53 in North Wales and 44 in the Gwent force area.

Dyfed-Powys Police supplied data for the period between October 2017 and April 2018 when 19 offences were recorded.

In Wales, grooming offences were recorded on 23 different platforms, with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat comprising the top three most-commonly used with more than 120 taking place using those platforms alone.

Ninety-one crimes were reported in Wales against boys and girls aged between 12 and 15, while 56 offences were recorded against children aged 11 and under. The youngest victim recorded was just six years old.

Following the NSPCC’s #WildWestWeb campaign, the UK Government’s digital secretary Matt Hancock announced that laws will be brought in to regulate social networks, to keep children safe and prevent harms such as grooming.

The charity is now campaigning to ensure those laws are sufficiently robust to prevent grooming and to truly keep children safe.

It is calling on Government Create mandatory safety rules that social networks are legally required to follow; Establish an independent regulator to enforce safety laws and fine non-compliant sites; Require social media sites to publish annual safety reports; Force platforms to develop technology to detect grooming using algorithms.

It comes ahead of the charity’s annual flagship conference How Safe Are Our Children? which begins on Wednesday June 20 in London and has the theme Growing Up Online.

Contact offences such as rape and sexual assault were among those recorded in connection with grooming offences.

Mared Parry, from North Wales, was sent sexual messages from men 10 years older than her on Facebook when she was aged just 14.

Mared, who has waived her right to anonymity, was groomed to send semi-naked pictures to them.

She said: “At the beginning it was messages like ‘Hey, how are you?’ But as the weeks went on, they started sending messages that were more and more sexual. It was so subtle; that’s why it is so easy for an online chat to slip into being so wrong.

“If I didn’t reply or speak the way they wanted me to, then they would say: ‘You’re just too immature for me’. They were so manipulative, but you don’t even notice it.

“Looking back at it now, it’s scary to think that I sent semi-naked pictures to older guys. It could have gone a lot further.”

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “These numbers are far higher than we had predicted, and every single sexual message from an adult to a child can have a huge impact for years to come.

“Social networks have been self-regulated for a decade and it’s absolutely clear that children have been harmed as a result.

“I urge digital secretary Matt Hancock to follow through on his promise and introduce safety rules backed up in law and enforced by an independent regulator with fining powers.

“Social networks must be forced to design extra protections for children into their platforms, including algorithms to detect grooming to prevent abuse from escalating.”

In Wales, NSPCC Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to co-ordinate and progress efforts to keep children as safe in their online worlds as they are offline.

Last year, Welsh Government announced plans to produce a children and young persons’ online safety action plan.

The NSPCC hopes it will deliver practical help and support for schools, parents and others in Wales involved in child protection online when it is published.

How Safe Are Our Children? takes place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, in Westminster, London on June 20-21.

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Second workshop held on Ceredigion’s Economic Future

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A SECOND workshop was held on July 9 for County Councillors to discuss Ceredigion’s economic future bringing together some of the county’s biggest organisations to share what they had to offer and what partnership working between businesses and Ceredigion County Council could look like in the future.

The Workshop was an opportunity to hear from the large businesses that operate in Ceredigion. Environment Systems, MicroPharm and Rachel’s Dairy gave an insight into their businesses and about future investment opportunities.

The Workshops are an essential component of engaging with businesses as the Council begins to make preparations for a Growth Deal for the region which, if successful, will provide a major boost to the economy, job prospects and the prosperity of the area.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Vice-Chair of the Growing Mid Wales Partnership, said: “I hope that holding this second Economic Future Workshop shows that we continue to meet and support businesses. These businesses are key in keeping our young people in the county, providing a variety of different jobs and developing their skills and continuous learning for their future in West Wales.”

A third Workshop will be held in the near future which will provide a flavour of possible projects for a Growth Deal.

The Growth Deal will be prepared between Ceredigion and Powys County Councils, working with the Welsh and UK Government.

A Joint Agreement between Ceredigion and Powys is also being prepared for agreement in the Autumn to take this work forward.

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Lucy’s Law gets support from AMs

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AN EVENT calling for the introduction of ‘Lucy’s Law’ was held in the Senedd last Wednesday (Jul 11).

Assembly Members Eluned Morgan and Vikki Howells sponsored the event in support of an immediate ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third-party commercial dealers, in response to growing concerns from animal charities that not enough is being done to prevent illegal breeding and animal cruelty.

The sale of puppies through commercial third-party dealers both sustains and is dependent upon the existence of ‘puppy farms’, where puppies are bred for maximum profit and with minimal regard for animal welfare.

Although very few high street pet shops sell puppies these days, the third-party trade remains significant across the UK with dealers operating from a diverse array of premises including private homes and puppy superstores. Evidence suggests that the trade sources puppies bred in Wales.

According to animal charity, CARIAD, a ban is the essential first step towards ending the practice of farming dogs for profit with little or no regard for their welfare or their fitness as family companions. Stress, increased risk of disease, poor breeding practices and irresponsible selling tactics are all associated with the method of third-party puppy selling.

Respected Vet and campaigner Marc Abraham spoke during the event at the National Assembly for Wales, he said:
“It simply isn’t enough to license puppy sellers, we must have a full and complete ban, to stop the trade and supply of dogs bred on such an extensive scale. Lucy’s Law will help to change the way dogs are bred in this country. It will make the process more transparent and raise standards, improving the economy and employment opportunities. This is a revolution in dog breeding and it will do wonders for the reputation of Wales as a responsible dog breeding nation.”

Eluned Morgan AM said: “There are many documented cases of puppy farming, particularly in the region I represent. Puppy smuggling is also an issue with several reported cases of puppies entering our ports from Ireland. The adoption of Lucy’s Law in Wales sends a strong message that as a nation we expect the highest animal welfare practises and that the cruel act of puppy farming can be consigned to history. I want us to be ambitious and to take the lead on this legislation which I hope will be a real possibility following this event in the Senedd.”

Vikki Howells AM said: “I am pleased to be jointly hosting this event today with important contributions from Pup Aid and CARIAD and Marc the vet who has done so much to raise awareness of Lucy’s Law across the United Kingdom and now here in Wales too.”

Legislation relating to Lucy’s Law is devolved to the Welsh Government under the 1956 An

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Views sought on proposed Ceredigion Language Strategy

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VIEWS are being sought on the proposed Ceredigion Language Strategy 2018-2023.

Ceredigion County Council’s proposed strategy sets out how the Council – working in collaboration with other partner organisations – will actively promote the Welsh language and facilitate the use of Welsh more widely within the local area.

Producing the Strategy is one of the requirements of the Welsh Language Standards in accordance with the Welsh Language Measure (Wales) 2011.

The Ceredigion Language Strategy aims to sustain and to promote the Welsh language in all aspects of life and to demonstrate ways of strengthening social networks in a bilingual area. Ceredigion remains a stronghold of the Welsh language however communities are changing which can affect the Welsh language and culture. Responding to these challenges, mitigating the risks facing the Welsh language and securing the viability of welsh-speaking communities requires robust language planning, alongside taking positive action in all aspects of social and economic life within the county.

The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Welsh Language Standards, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, said: “In implementing this strategy, Ceredigion will be contributing towards the Welsh Government vision in its Welsh Language Strategy, which aims to reach a million Welsh speakers in Wales by 2050. This strategy is an opportunity for us to work across the county to increase the use of Welsh language and to ensure that it reaches those parts of public life where it may be less prominent at present. This vision is to maintain a truly bilingual Ceredigion, where the Welsh language can be seen and heard every day in communities as a natural means of communication.”

The strategy is designed to be as realistic and proactive as possible in order to contribute to the vision of a truly bilingual Ceredigion, however the actions identified are within the sphere of influence of organisations working in partnership through the Ceredigion Bilingual Futures Forum.

Councillor ap Gwynn continued: “We are inviting you to comment on the proposed Strategy and the identified actions to be delivered in Ceredigion. We value your opinion, and your comments will be taken into account when publishing the final Strategy.”

Closing date for the consultation is August 13, 2018.

To view the proposed strategy, visit the Consultation page on the Council’s website, www.ceredigion.gov.uk/

Individuals are welcome to contact the Council on 01545 570881 should they wish to receive further information or to receive the information in another format. You can also obtain a paper copy of the Strategy at any of the Council’s Public Offices or Libraries.

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