CHESHIRE Police have recorded nearly 2,000 crimes related to indecent images of children over the past five years, new research from the NSPCC has revealed.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by the charity found that a total of 1,832 such incidents were logged by the force between 2016/17 and 2020/21.

And the number of offences of possessing, taking, making or distribution these vile materials in the latter year was more than double the former.

In total, 506 child abuse images crimes were recorded in Cheshire in 2020/21.

This figure stood at 226, 348, 349 and 403 for 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 respectively.

Across the north west, more than 11,000 offences were detected during these five years – again peaking in 2020/21 with 2,659.

The NSPCC says that social media is being used by groomers ‘as a conveyor belt to produce and share child abuse images on an industrial scale’ and has urged culture secretary Nadine Dorries to ‘seize the opportunity to strengthen the Online Safety Bill so it results in decisive action’.

Chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “The staggering amount of child sexual abuse image offences is being fuelled by the ease with which offenders are able to groom children across social media to produce and share images on an industrial scale.

“The Government recognises the problem and has created a landmark opportunity with the Online Safety Bill.

“We admire Nadine Dorries’ declared intent that child protection is her number one objective.

“But our assessment is that the legislation needs strengthening in clear and specific ways if it is to fundamentally address the complex nature of online abuse and prevent children from coming to avoidable harm.”