Need to know

Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that police in England and Wales recorded

child abduction offences in 2018/19¹
Key statistics:
  • Offences of child abduction recorded by police in England and Wales increased by 7 per cent, from 1,189 (in 2017/18) to 1,268 (in 2018/19). This is more than double the total of 5 years ago (565 in 2013/14).
  • Offences of kidnapping (which include adult and child victims) increased by 15 per cent, from 4,528 (in 2017/18) to 5,223 (in 2018/19). This is more than double the total of just 4 years ago (2,189 in 2014/15). Action Against Abduction estimates that between 10 and 20 per cent of kidnapping offences involve child victims.

Find out more about police-recorded child abduction and kidnappings offences across the UK here.




1. Does the upward trend in offences represent a real increase in the risk posed to children, or is it the result of changes to the way in which police record crime?

If it is the latter then we need to see the evidence for this – child abduction causes considerable concern and we need to be clear about what lies behind the trend.

2. Have some types of child abduction increased more than others?

The last in-depth review of police-recorded offences was conducted by Action Against Abduction in partnership with the National Crime Agency. Information was collected on 675 offences of child abduction and kidnapping (children only) recorded by 49 (of the then 52) police forces in 2011/12. The report found that:

  • 43 per cent of offences were perpetrated by a stranger, the majority attempted abductions;
  • 36 per cent of offences were perpetrated by someone known but not related to the victims, the majority arising from child sexual exploitation;
  • 22 per cent were perpetrated by parents or other family members.
This was the profile 8 years ago – is it still the same now?

The full report on the 2011/12 data is available here.

3. What is the trend for child abduction that results in serious crime?

As things stand, abductions that result in more serious crime, for example rape or homicide, are excluded from the count of child abduction or kidnapping offences (because they are recorded only as the more serious offence). This means we have no way of knowing what the trend is for abductions that cause the most harm.


1. Undertake a full review and analysis of police-recorded child abduction and kidnapping offences – to identify any changes to the type of offences recorded and to examine any changes in recording practices.

2. Add a child abduction ‘flag’ to crime recording systems – so that serious crimes offences that include abduction as an element of the offence can be identified and counted.

Systems already exist for police to ‘flag’ crimes – irrespective of the offence type – where an element of the crime is of high public policy concern. For example, forces are required to report the number of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, or a hate crime.