Police across England and Wales have investigated over 200 cases of sexual activity and assault by children under the age of ten, a newspaper has revealed.
The Mail on Sunday found that 16 police forces “recorded” incidents where the suspects for alleged sex crimes between 2011 and 2013 involved children under ten.
Included in the revelations are the cases of two five-year-old boys who were questioned over claims of rape.
The paper, which used Freedom of Information laws to obtain the statistics, also revealed that a six-year-old girl had been reported to police over “suspected sex offences”.
NSPCC’s Head of Strategy and Development (Sexual Abuse), Jon Brown, linked the findings to pornographic content on the internet.
He said: “Exposure to extreme, sometimes sexually violent and degrading material is now only a few clicks away.
“This can warp youngster’s views of what is normal and acceptable sexual behaviour, how they treat others and how they expect to be treated.
“We know that technology and easy access to sexual material is affecting young people’s views of what is ‘normal’ or acceptable behaviour”.
Across the 43 police forces in England and Wales, 235 children were identified as suspects of sex crimes.
In West Yorkshire, the Daily Mail said: “Boys as young as four were accused of sex crimes”, while in Lancashire “24 children under ten were suspected of sexual offences including rape”.
Under current laws in England and Wales, children aged nine or younger cannot be prosecuted as “they are below the age of criminal responsibility”.
John Carr of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety said: “I’m astonished that four and five-year olds are being brought to the attention of the police for sexual behaviour.
“It is another worrying example of sexual brutalising, and the internet is definitely contributing to that.”
Child safety expert Jim Gamble told the Mail on Sunday: “I’m not surprised but it’s still shocking when children become involved in these sorts of offences.”
He blamed adult material on TV, the internet and smart phones for children becoming sexualised at an early age.
In December alone, 44,000 primary school children watched hardcore online porn, according to a report by the Authority for Television on Demand.