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Monday, 28 July 2014

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More than 200 sex offences involving under-18s took place in Cumbria in the space of a year.

MORE than 200 sex offences involving under-18s took place in the space of a year.

Figures released by Cumbria police reveal there were 204 reports of sexual offences and a further 23 reports of obscene publications across the county from 2012 to 2013.

Repeated warnings have been issued to teenagers tempted to send naked or revealing pictures to strangers online via smartphone apps, including Snapchat, due to the lasting damage the images can have.

Police are hosting a webchat following a week-long campaign aiming to raise awareness of the dangers of “sexting” and child sexual exploitation online.

Detective Inspector Nick Coughlan, for the public protection unit at Cumbria police, said: “The webchat is a perfect opportunity for the general public to ask any questions they may have around CSE.

“A number of agencies will be available to share their expertise. CSE can happen to any child, anywhere.”

The webchat will feature representatives from Cumbria police, children’s services, Inspira, the NSPCC and NHS – who will all be available to answer any questions.

DI Coughlan added: “It is vitally important parents and adults recognise the signs of CSE, as often a young person may not realise they are at risk and may even see themselves as willing participants.

“It involves offenders grooming youngsters and using their power to sexually abuse them.

“It can take many forms, whether it occurs through a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship with an older boyfriend, or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, alcohol or cigarettes.

“Sexual exploitation is child abuse and, although they may not realise it, it puts the young victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.”

The webchat is due to take place on Monday on the Cumbria police website.

Visit http://www.cumbria.police.uk/contact-us/web-chats/cse-webchat from 6.30pm to 8pm to put your questions to the experts or to find out more.

Anyone who misses the webchat but would like to find out more can replay the chat at a later date.

Anyone with concerns about child sexual exploitation can contact Cumbria police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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