School sexual offence reports double

GCSE Results Day
GCSE Results Day

Police were called to deal with a report of a sexual offence in a Lancashire school almost every month last year.

Newly released figures have revealed Police received 28 reports of sexual offences – including rape and sexual assault – between 2011 and 2015.

There were six allegations of sexual offences on school premises recorded in 2011/12, six in 2012/13, five in 2013/14 and 11 in 2014/15 with two suspects being charged.

The figures were obtained by global children’s charity Plan International UK, which is calling for more lessons on sex and consent in schools.

While parents have revealed their worry, Det Chf Insp Simon Dent, said: “Almost all of the incidents referred to were instances of sexual touching over clothing, and were resolved in partnership with schools.”

Reported incidents included rape, sexual activity involving a child and sexual assault on a child.

Mum-of-two Corrina Talbot Lunn, from Marton, hopes common sense is being used before the police are becoming involved.

She said: “I hope schools are using common sense and only calling police when it’s justified, and not to deal with incidents such as kids playing kiss chase.

“ That said, I feel any incident where there’s an age difference or coercion or both needs to be investigated and dealt with properly to ensure everyone understands it’s unacceptable.”

Nicki Bamford, from South Shore, questioned precisely what the figures included.

She said: “It shocked me to learn that the police are being called in to schools so often.

“When my children go to school I expect them to be safe.

“Where are the staff when these offences occur?

“Saying that, how does Lancashire compare with other counties?

“It would be interesting to know how many of these ‘sexual offences ‘ are actual offences and not merely children playing kiss chase.

“It is good to see that people are more aware of sexual abuse and reporting it however; it has produced a society who are scared to even look at another person, without the fear of being arrested for indecent conduct.”

Plan International UK is calling for the government to commit to mandatory sex and relationships education which covers sexting, consent, healthy relationships and the law.

“This shows that we’re failing young people when it comes to learning about healthy relationships and consent,” says Plan International UK Head of Girls’ Rights Kerry Smith.

“Quality sex and relationships education helps young people to develop healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships while helping to tackle inappropriate and aggressive sexual behaviour.”

Paula Garratt, 40, from Kirkham, who has a 12-year-old daughter, said: “It’s always something I worry about with having a daughter, not because I’ve ever been given any reason to worry but just because of how often you see it on the news. Sex is everywhere and all I hope is that my children and others are educated on the topic properly.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Schools should be safe places where pupils can fulfil their potential, so it is worrying that children have been victims of sexual offences.

“These figures should prompt schools to review their safeguarding procedures and ensure all pupils feel able to speak out and seek help whenever they need it.

“And all children need to be educated about what sexual abuse is and how to get help immediately if they or someone they know has suffered abuse at school.

“Help for children and young people concerned about abuse is available confidentially from Childline on 0800 1111.”

DCI Simon Dent, of Lancashire Police, said: “As a force we channel a great deal of resources into this area, which includes carrying out preventative work through campaigns and delivering educational packages in schools to promote healthy relationships.

“We also take a joined-up approach with other agencies, such as social services and the county’s safeguarding boards, to ensure appropriate advice and support is available to all young people.

“As a result our figures are low compared to other forces.

“The figures also offer a snapshot rather than a complete picture of each incident – for example, one of the offences was committed outside of the county. Almost all of the incidents referred to were instances of sexual touching over clothing, and were resolved in partnership with schools. The outcomes were also agreed with the victims and their families and, where relevant, the offenders were referred to social services for further intervention.

“We take all reports of sexual offences seriously, especially where children are involved, and all allegations made to us are investigated robustly. Offenders are dealt with in a way which is proportionate to the crime.

“We would urge anyone who has been a victim of a sexual offence to contact us on 101, confident in the knowledge they will be dealt with sensitively and professionally.

“More information on the warning signs of child sexual exploitation can be found on the force website at www.lancashire.police.uk/help-advice/child-safety/child-sexual-exploitation.”