CYBER-related sex crimes against children in North Yorkshire have rocketed by nearly 40 per cent in the last three years.

Statistics released today by the NSPCC reveal that offences in the county have risen from 81 in 2015 to 113 last year, an increase of 39.5 per cent.

Overall, across Yorkshire and Humberside, police forces in 2018 recorded 1,493 cyber-related sex crimes, an increase of 104 per cent from 729 offences recorded in 2015.

Commenting on the increase in North Yorkshire cases, Detective Inspector Darrin Knight, of North Yorkshire Police Digital Forensic Unit, said: “Whether it’s online gaming or watching videos on YouTube, the internet plays a significant role in the daily lives of our children and young people.

“Very sadly, paedophiles are well aware of this and so use the internet to target and gain a child’s trust, ultimately to exploit that trust for their own sexual gratification.

“While the increase in the number of online reported child sexual offences over the last few years is shocking, rather than it being a huge increase in people committing these offences, it is more a reflection of the growing recognition of these offences and a growing confidence amongst the public in coming forward and making a report to police.

“Protecting children and young people online is a top priority for North Yorkshire Police. Last year, we created the Online Abuse Team - a dedicated resource of specially trained detectives specifically investigating sexual offences committed against the vulnerable online.

“We have also employed new technical methods, which assist us in detecting offenders. Over the past 18 months, the combination of these two factors has seen an increase in the number of offences and offenders we are able to detect, which has a knock on effect of increasing the overall number of reports.”

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign, calling on the the next prime minister to prioritise online safety and bring in laws that deliver better protection against abuse.

The charity fears that the figures may not reveal the true extent of the problem due to under-recording of the role of online in crimes and wide logging variation across forces.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “Behind each offence is a child suffering at the hands of sex offenders and, worryingly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg.

“Far too many children are drowning in a sea of online threats so it’s now time for the next prime minister, whoever he may be, to cast out the life jacket.

“He must hold his nerve and introduce an independent regulator to protect children from the risks of abuse and harmful content.”

Det Insp Knight added: “Any suspicions you have about those iterating with a child should be reported to the police who will deal with your information sensitively.”