Children under 13 have been arrested on rape charges across 24 police forces in the past year – and one children’s charity is blaming the alarming figure on readily available online pornography.
The shocking arrest figures came from a Daily Mail Freedom of Information request, which revealed that children as young as ten had been detained for rape in some areas.
An NSPCC spokesman told the paper that there was “undoubtedly” a link between the assaults and pornography being easy to access online.
He said: “[Online pornography gives children] a distorted picture of what sexual relationships should be about.”
David Cameron has announced plans for online pornography to be controlled through internet service providers offering parents various levels of access through a filter system.
However, Peter Davies, the lead on child protection for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) told the Press Association that he sceptical that a filter system would work.
“The issue for me is that I don’t think it will stop children having access to pornography, which I think is what people would like it to do,” he said.
“Children will find a way on the internet - just as, frankly, those that wanted to generally found a way before the internet existed.
“As a risk mitigation tool I have no problem with it and I think it will help some children in denying them access to material they shouldn’t see.
“I don’t think it will stop children accessing pornography online.”
Felicity Gerry, criminal barrister and co-author of The Sexual Offences Handbook, agreed, telling Huffington Post UK: "Regulating porn will make little difference as ‘sexting’ between kids is rife in any event - it's a matter for good parental and social care.
"Plus, these cases are more likely to be sexual exploration between underage children perhaps copying what they have seen on screen.
"Sexualisation of children is a real concern, but it would be wrong to label children rapists if those are the circumstances."
However, internet service provider TalkTalk claims that parents support its filtering system.
CEO Dido Harding said: “We have been asking all our new customers if they want to turn on HomeSafe, the only parental control service that protects every device using the home internet connection, since the beginning of the year and our experience shows it really works.
"One in three new customers – roughly the proportion of households in the UK with dependent children in them – are choosing to turn parental controls on and 80% think being asked is a good thing. Over half a million TalkTalk customers are using HomeSafe already and we will start offering this same active choice to our existing customers within the next month."