THE number of children being referred to the police in Oxfordshire because of emotional abuse has almost trebled in the last year.

A total 81 county cases were referred to Thames Valley Police by child abuse charity the NSPCC in 2013/14, up from 30 the previous year.

The Bullfinch police investigation into an Oxford child sex gang could have led to an increase in reports, said head of child protection awareness Chris Cloke.

The investigation led to seven men being jailed for a total 95 years last year for grooming and abusing six underage girls.

He said: “Oxford isn’t alone in seeing a high percentage increase of cases, but there have been several high-profile abuse cases in the public eye which may have raised awareness in the area.

“An increase in awareness of child abuse and a greater understanding of emotional abuse is to be welcomed.”

The charity wants emotional abuse to count as child cruelty and the Government is considering updating the 1933 law.

Mr Cloke said: “Emotional abuse is often the most long-lasting and damaging. We have spoken to people who were abused, and they say that they recover from or can come to terms with physical and sexual abuse, but it’s the emotional abuse that stays with them. It can have a real impact on their future relationships, it can lead to them self harming or even contemplating suicide.”

Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Abingdon-based charity Action for Children, backed the call.

He said: “This increase in calls from the public shows both the scale and seriousness of emotional abuse and a heightened awareness of it.

“A new law would help children living in cruel and unbearable situations.”

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