Urgent action has been called for to help stop sex offenders using social media to communicate with children, as new figures show a frightening rise in cases across Cumbria and the north east.

The NSPCC has obtained new figures revealing that police forces across the north east and Cumbria recorded 836 offences of sexual communication with a child between April 2017 and October last year.

The NSPCC has warned that the number of offences is "accelerating."

Across England and Wales, more than 10,000 offences of sexual communication with a child were recorded since the was brought into law in April 2017, following an NSPCC campaign to give police the power to intervene in cases of online grooming.

While the most recent figures obtained by the NSPCC are for October 2019, the charity is stressing that the coronavirus lockdown could have led to a sharp increase in this offence.

The NSPCC's chief executive Peter Wanless had scathing words for the social media industry, calling on the Prime Minister to "stand up to Silicon Valley" by ensuring the passage of an Online Harms bill through Parliament within the next 18 months.

“Child abuse is an inconvenient truth for tech bosses who have failed to make their sites safe and enabled offenders to use them as a playground in which to groom our kids," he said.

“Now is the time to get regulation done and create a watchdog with the teeth to hold tech directors criminally accountable if their platforms allow children to come to serious but avoidable harm.”