The number of cases involving children committing sex offences against other children has risen by nearly 80%, with last year seeing the equivalent more than 22 a day. The number of alleged offences reported to police forces in England and Wales rose from 5,215 in 2013 to 9,290 in 2016, according to figures obtained by the charity Barnardo's shows.
In total, there were a total of 32,452 reports of child sex offences allegedly committed by children between the four-year period..
Barnardo's said the police forces with the highest number of reported offences were Metropolitan Police (5,470), West Yorkshire (3,192), Greater Manchester (3,024), West Midlands (2,876) and Kent (1,678), with Warwickshire seeing an increase of 521%. Norfolk (371%) and Lincolnshire (345%) also saw significant increases.
The actually number of child-on-child sex offences could be higher as seven of the 43 forces in England and Wales either did not respond or provided only a partial response to the Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the charity.
Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "Barnardo's warned last year that unless child-on-child sexual abuse is dealt with head-on, it may become the next scandal in our society. These results are another wake-up call to the extent of the problem.
"We're deeply concerned more children may be sexually harming other children. We know this can be because they've been abused themselves and may not have received the right support to help them recover.
"An estimated third of sexual abuse is carried out by children. Rehabilitating children so they don't go on to harm others is vital to preventing further sexual abuse. High quality age-appropriate mandatory SRE [sex and relationship education] lessons would help children recognise what a healthy relationship should look like."
National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection and Chief Constable of Norfolk police, Simon Bailey said: "We believe we can attribute these increases to more awareness and greater victim confidence. We also have to look at the possibility that more abuse is being perpetrated and if technology is facilitating this.
"These figures highlight the importance of building resilience in young people and educating them about sexual relationships. This can't be left to chance.
"I know from my own force that we are engaging with schools more than ever to educate and raise awareness of both the different forms of abuse and how to get support. It is clear from the increase in the number of reports we are receiving how vital this work is."