Children as young as nine years old have committed more than 100 sexual offences against their fellow under-18s in Lincolnshire, figures reveal.
The statistics, released by the NSPCC last week, show 126 child sex abuse offences were committed by under-18s in the last three years within the county.
The youngest offender was a nine-year-old boy while two of the victims were three-year-old girls.
The vast majority - 109 - were committed by boys and 101 of the victims were girls, with 19 of those aged ten and under. Offences include sexual assault, indecent exposure and rape.
There were 62 offences in 2011/12, up from 50 in 2010/11 and 14 in 2009/10.
Nationally children as young as three have been involved in more than 5,000 offences of this nature.
Det Supt Rick Hatton, head of Lincolnshire Police’s Public Protection Unit, said “By the nature of these cases they need to be handled extremely sensitively and, as such, there are specialist teams within Lincolnshire Police which deal with reports of these offences.”
He added: “As the NSPCC reports, some of the children/young offenders come from a background of being abused themselves and ultimately the aim of all agencies is to work with these children to change their behaviour.
“Counselling and diversionary interventions have proved to be an effective way to break the cycle and prevent further offences.”
Claire Lilley, policy advisor for the NSPCC, said: We hope our findings will ring alarm bells with the authorities that this is a problem which needs urgent attention.
“If we are to tackle this growing problem and protect young victims, more needs to be done to identify and treat children at risk of sexually offending. And we must do more to shield young people from an increasingly sexualised society.”
The charity says most victims are friends or family members and warned that easy access to sexual material is ‘warping’ young people’s views of what is acceptable behaviour.