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Online Grooming (62A/23)


  1. The total number of online grooming cases (Sexual Communication with a Child offences) recorded in 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017.
  2. The age of the victims in these cases each year and the proportion of the victims that identified themselves as each gender category, where these details were recorded.
  3. The methods, social media platforms and websites used in these offences each year where the means of communication was known/recorded. Ideally broken down as percentages, such as Snapchat was used in 30% of offences, Facebook was used in 17%.
  4. How many people were arrested in relation to these crimes in each year, how many were found guilty and sentenced and how many are still ongoing
  5. How many websites or other means of communication were taken down in each year in relation to these offences.


Our data are not organised in a way as to allow us to provide all of this information within the appropriate (cost) limit of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act (see ‘Reason for Decision’ below).

However, although excess cost removes the force’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, as a gesture of goodwill I have supplied information, relative to your request, retrieved before it was realised that the fees limit would be exceeded (see attached file 62A_23_attachment.pdf). I trust this is helpful, but it does not affect our legal right to rely on the fees regulations for the remainder of the request.

In addition to the attached, West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to this request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemption:

Section 23(5) – Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters.

Section 23 is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest. Confirming or denying the existence of whether any other information is held would contravene the constrictions laid out within Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies.

Further information on Section 23 is available here.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.


Firstly, regarding question 4, court and custody data are not fed back into our crime recording system. Therefore, to determine how many people were arrested and how many were found guilty and sentenced, we would need to manually go into the electronic records for each case and cross reference them against information held on our custody system and the Police National Computer (PNC). This though would be a very labour-intensive task that I estimate would take between 5 and 30 minutes per record and even at a low average of 15 minutes per record, would equate to 180 hours work, far exceeding the appropriate limit (FOIA, s.12).

Similarly, regarding question 5, to determine the number of websites or other means of communication that were ‘taken down’ in each year in relation to the offences, would require us having to manually go into every offence and trawl through the electronic case files for each. This would once again be a huge undertaking and far exceed the appropriate limit (FOIA, s.12).

Finally, for question 3 (method/platform used), although we have been able to provide some information (attached) this was extracted by way of a manual review of the offence summary for each case. However, in more than 50% of cases, the information was not contained within this field and these cases are represented in the table under ‘not known/recorded’. To determine the missing information for these cases though would, as per questions 4 and 5 above, require a manual review of records that would exceed the appropriate limit (FOIA, s.12).

This means that the cost of compliance with the whole of your request is above the amount to which we are legally required to respond, i.e. the cost of locating and retrieving the information would exceed the appropriate costs limit under section 12(1) of the FOI Act 2000. For West Midlands Police, the appropriate limit is set at £450, as prescribed by the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004, S.I. 3244.

Further information on Section 12 of the FOI Act is available here.