• More than 5,000 child sex offences recorded by Police Scotland in 2019/20
  • Childline counselling sessions about sexual abuse in the family triple across UK during lockdown
  • NSPCC urges Scottish Government to draw up a Child Sexual Abuse Strategy that puts victims and prevention at its core

Police Scotland recorded an average of 15 child sex offences every day last year, new figures from the NSPCC reveal.

There were 5,311 recorded offences including rape, online grooming and sexual assault against children in Scotland in 2019/20 – up 30% in the five years since 2014/15.

In last year’s figures, where gender was recorded, girls were five times as likely to be victims, and in the offences where age category was given, 45% of the crimes recorded were against children under 13.

Across the UK, there were 73,518 recorded offences in 2019/20. The data was provided by a total of 44 out of 45 police forces after the NSPCC submitted a Freedom of Information request.

NSPCC Scotland believes these figures show the urgent need for national leadership to create a coordinated plan to tackle child sexual abuse, both online and offline, in the country.

The charity is now calling on the Scottish Government to follow other nations in the UK and set about producing a comprehensive Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy.1

The charity is calling for the strategy to put the needs of children and young people at the centre of how authorities respond to child sexual abuse, with a focus on effective prevention and victims having access to timely, relevant and specialist support to help them recover.

NSPCC Scotland research2 has shown that the availability of specialist therapeutic sexual abuse services is patchy and inconsistent across the country.

Support should include that provided through Child House initiatives where health, policing, social work, therapeutic and other services provide help to children under one roof.

Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland’s head of service, said: “Every day, children in Scotland are being sexually abused and having to live with the devastating impacts of this abuse on their lives.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent abuse and to ensure children are supported to recover when it is disclosed.

“In Scotland, we have seen numerous plans and initiatives launched to deal with various aspects of such abuse, including child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviour.

“However, we believe it is crucial to have a joined-up approach when tackling this crime and want to see a strategy which puts the experiences and needs of children at the heart of it and is effective in preventing abuse and helping young people recover.”

The call comes as an NSPCC report found contacts from young people to Childline about sexual abuse in the family tripled across the UK during lockdown.

The report published today, ‘The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: sexual abuse’, shows there were an average of 23 contacts to Childline per week about child sexual abuse in the home, up threefold since March 23rd when lockdown was announced.

Some children told Childline that sexual abuse had become more frequent during lockdown, as they were spending more time with their abuser.

One 17-year-old girl said: “It started during lockdown, about seven weeks ago. Dad touched me and got me to touch him. Today he came into my room and removed his trousers and asked me to do something to him and I did it. I don’t want to live here anymore. I feel I should tell social services about how abusive dad is, but I don’t feel ready to tell them about the sexual abuse part.”

A third of counselling sessions were about abuse in the family that happened over a year ago, with many children talking about it for the first time.

A 15-year-old girl told Childline: “My dad touched me sexually when I was younger and now I have to be home all the time with him and I can’t deal with it. Just being in the house with him is so hard. I am constantly reminded of what he did.”

Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000. Adult victims of non-recent sexual abuse can also get in touch for support.

Childline is available for young people on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk



NSPCC Spokespeople are available for interview. Please contact scotlandpressoffice@nspcc.org.uk or 0141 420 6546 for more information.

Notes to editors


  • 1 The Welsh Government produced its National Action Plan Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse in July 2019, and the Westminster’s previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced the UK Government’s intention to publish a Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy at the NSPCC’s How Safe Conference on June 25th
  • 2 Galloway, S., Love, R. and Wales, A. (2017) The right to recover: therapeutic services for children and young people following sexual abuse: an overview of provision in the West of Scotland. London: NSPCC.
  • The FOI sent by the NSPCC to 44 of the police forces asked them for the number of recorded sexual offences against children under-18s between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. The NSPCC formally requested the same information from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. All forces provided data except for Greater Manchester Police. Data was also received from forces in Jersey and Guernsey for the first time.
  • Data from previous years has been supplied by Police Scotland without an FOI request.
  • In 2019/20, there were 73,518 cases reported across the UK and 5,311 in Scotland.
  • Some of these figures may include non-recent child sex offences.
  • It is important to note that the Police Scotland figures do not cover all sexual offending against under 18s. For example, rape of a 17-year-old would be recorded as ‘rape’ and not further categorised. Similarly, a rape of a 13-year-old, reported this year but which occurred prior to Sexual Offences Act coming into force in 2009 would also be recorded as ‘rape’ and not further categorised.
  • In 2018/19, 77,970 cases were recorded across the 45 UK police forces (including Greater Manchester Police). Excluding Greater Manchester Police to compare like for year on year, there were 73,379 offences in 2018/19 meaning an increase in offences recorded by forces who responded in 2019/20.
  • In 2018/19, there were 5,325 crimes recorded by Police Scotland.
  • In 2014/15 there were 46,738 recorded child sexual offences in the UK and 4,082 in Scotland.
  • Higher recorded sex offences do not necessarily reflect high prevalence of sex offence crimes, but could be explained by better recording, greater awareness of what abuse is, and survivors feeling more confident in coming forward.
  • Not all police forces provided age breakdowns. Some provided ages of victims, other provided broad age ranges.
  • The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: sexual abuse is available on NSPCC Learning.

About the NSPCC

The NSPCC is the leading children’s charity fighting to end child abuse in the UK and Channel Islands. Using voluntary donations, which make up around 90 per cent of our funding, we help children who’ve been abused to rebuild their lives, we protect children at risk, and we find the best ways of preventing child abuse from ever happening. So when a child needs a helping hand, we’ll be there. When parents are finding it tough, we’ll help. When laws need to change, or governments need to do more, we won’t give up until things improve.

Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children with no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help.

Our free NSPCC helpline provides adults with a place they can get advice and support, share their concerns about
a child or get general information about child protection. Adults can contact the helpline 365 days a year.