There has been an increase in the number of child abductions and kidnappings in the UK, with almost 900 reported cases last year.
Figures gathered from police forces by the charity Parents and Abducted Children Together (Pact), reveal that abductions of children under 18 rose by 13% between 2012-13 and 2013-14 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The charity was unable to acquire figures from Scotland.
The rise in the number of children abducted by someone other than their parents rose twice as much as parental abductions, with a 14% increase.
Over the same period, there was an 18% surge in kidnappings, which involve the use of force or fraud against the victim.
The figures come after revelations last year that 1,400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, between 1997 and 2013, with police forces under pressure to overhaul the way they treat abduction and kidnapping offences.
According to the report, 158 children were abducted by parents, 401 children were abducted by people other than their parents, and 321 children were kidnapped during 2013/2014.
Kidnappings are defined as the use of force and fraud to take a child, and include cases where a child is ransomed or held by members of a rival gang.
Rates of child abduction were highest in Northern Ireland, with 11.6 offences per 100,000 children, while London and Yorkshire and Humber had rates of 9.8 and 9.3 respectively.
Smaller forces recorded a greater surge in cases.
“Offences in Lancashire doubled (an increase of 20 offences) and Kent, North Yorkshire and Northumbria each recorded increases of 14 offences – at least three times the number recorded in 2012-13,” the study found.
“These increases in offences recorded by small and medium-sized forces have led to some surprising findings in the rates of child abduction and kidnapping. Lincolnshire has a rate of child abduction/kidnapping 2.5 times the national average at 18.5 per 100,000.”
Geoff Newiss, a director of Pact, said that the increase might be explained by the pressure on police to overhaul the way they deal with kidnapping cases.
“I would imagine that [Rotherham] is something to do with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if forces are more sensitive now to the need to record what comes their way,” he told the Independent on Sunday.
He said that the real figure was probably far higher, with the study finding the majority of parental kidnappings going unrecorded.
Susannah Drury, director of policy for Missing People, said: “This Pact report provides valuable insights into the scale of child abduction and kidnapping in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The report has uncovered worrying increases in child abductions and kidnapping offences – highlighting the importance of a quick and effective national response to these crimes.”
“The report has uncovered worrying increases in child abductions and kidnapping offences – highlighting the importance of a quick and effective national response to these crimes.”
A spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: “There has been a considerable focus in the police service in recent years to improve our crime recording practices. This has led to a significant increase in the recording of these types of crime.”