Shocking increase in sex crimes against children in Staffordshire
NEARLY 2,000 sex crimes against children have been reported to police in the county in just four years.
And new figures show the number of offences against boys and girls is on the increase.
Staffordshire Police dealt with 578 alleged sex crimes during the last year calendar year, compared to just 370 in 2010; 587 in 2009; and 458 in 2008.
The crimes include rape, incest and abuse of children through prostitution and pornography.
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Alarmingly, last year 154 victims were aged under 10, and a further 421 were reported against youngsters aged 10 to 17.
And of the 578 total, 479 of the victims were girls.
And the statistics place Staffordshire 10th out of 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Last year, Derbyshire reported 549 sex crimes against children, Cheshire 274 and West Mercia 449.
Now Maureen Wood, a victim of incest throughout much of her childhood, has called for more action to help vulnerable youngsters.
From the age of just eight, Maureen was subjected to a shocking catalogue of assaults by her brother, stepfather and mother.
Mother-of-five Maureen, aged 41, of Penkhull, eventually spoke out, and her abusers were jailed.
She fears the new figures show a large minority of children in the region are still suffering in silence.
She said: "I think the number is high.
"It's too high. There are far too many children still being abused.
"On the other hand it shows how many crimes are being reported, which can only be a good thing. But if you looked at the number of cases that aren't reported you'd probably be looking at three times that.
"There are more resources out there now for children to speak out, and there is more openness.
"More people need to be encouraged to speak out. The abuse is something that you're made to feel is shameful and you would be judged, or accused of lying and being a trouble-maker.
"But this is how the abusers make their victims feel in order to carry out their sick acts."
At Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court last year, Maureen's now 68-year-old stepfather John Wood, of Brocklehurst Way, Sneyd Green, was convicted of seven counts of rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Her brother John Donnelly, 46, of Talke, received two years in jail after admitting rape, incest and indecent assault.
In a re-trial, Maureen Wood (senior), aged 65, was found guilty of four counts of aiding and abetting the rape of a girl under 16. She was jailed for nine years.
In Staffordshire, 1,993 sex crimes against children were reported.
Detective Superintendent John Maddox, head of Staffordshire Police's Protecting Vulnerable People department, said every reported case is investigated.
"The force treats all reports of sexual abuse against children or adults extremely seriously, no matter how long ago the offence happened, and we will carry out a thorough and detailed investigation into such reports.
"We are determined to bring offenders to justice and committed to helping all victims of sexual abuse."
Nationally, the NSPCC says that more than 400 sexual assaults against children were reported to police forces in England and Wales every week last year, with fewer than one in 10 resulting in a conviction.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC's sexual abuse programme, said: "The NSPCC is doing what it can by using information like this from the police to tailor our services.
"Different approaches are needed depending on the age of the child.
"We are also pioneering new programmes in the West Midlands to tackle sexual abuse of children, including our Schools Service which aims to visit every primary school in the county over two years."