FOUR child sex offences a day are being reported to police in Sussex.

The latest figures show a shocking rise in the number of cases of rape, assault and grooming across the county.

Last week Adur and Worthing’s most senior police officer Chief Inspector Miles Ockwell told councillor there was one sex offence a day committed in the district alone.

The number of offences in 2016/17 reached an all time high – and was 13% higher than the previous year.

Sussex Police recorded 1,694 offences of rape, sexual assault and grooming last year - up from 1,496 the previous year.

Police said more victims reporting offences was the reason for the rise, but campaigners feared that predatory paedophiles were now able to reach far more potential victims online.

Victims said that regardless of the reasons for the rise they were horrified to know so many children were victim’s of abuse.

Children’s charity the NSPCC which publishes the figures obtained under the Freedom of information Act today said the true number of children abused could be even higher as many children are too scared or embarrassed to report offences.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This dramatic rise is extremely concerning and shows just how extensive child sexual abuse is.

“These abhorrent crimes can shatter a child’s life, leaving them to feel humiliated, depressed, or even suicidal. That is why it is crucial every single child who has endured abuse and needs support must get timely, thorough help so they can learn to rebuild their lives.

“These new figures suggest the police are making real progress in how they investigate sex offences against children. To help them tackle the issue going forward, we must ensure the police are equipped to work with other agencies and provide ongoing support and training to officers on the front line.”

Graham Sawyer - who was abused by the Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball in the 1970s - told The Argus: “We cant tell what the reason for this rise is.

“I do hope it is because people feel more comfortable opening up and talking about their stories and not because it is an increase in cases.

“But the true tragedy is that there are this many victims. The most important thing is that there is education and support. “

At a meeting of Adur and Worthing District Councils joint scrutiny committee last Thursday Ch Insp Ockwell said “There is one sexual offence across Adur and Worthing every day, we receive more reports of domestic abuse than criminal damage - I do not think the public understand the scale of it.”

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “All police forces have recorded an increase in sex offences, against adults as well as children, over the past five years. However the pace of reporting is increasing and we expect that this trend will be found in other forces too.

“We welcome this continued increase in reporting which is giving us a better indication of the underlying issues, and which we also believe reflects at least in part an increasing confidence in victims about coming forward, knowing that reports are taken seriously.”

What are Sussex Police doing?

-Sussex Police said they have set up the Sussex-wide children’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, specialising in support for child victims up to the age of 14.

-All serious sexual offences are now investigated by the Safeguarding Investigation Units (SIUs).

-A specialist central unit investigates the most complex sexual abuse cases

-Extra funding from the increase in Council Tax precept will enable extra staff to be posted in specialist units and for investment in digital forensic examination.

-Two new victim identification officers have been appointed to the Paedophile On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT).

-All officers are trained in investigating online abuse.