Police-Recorded Child Abduction

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

child abduction offences in 2018/19¹

This is the highest in over a decade. Action Against Abduction’s research suggests that this trend is the result of large increases in the number of non-parental child abduction offences².

  • 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.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) recorded 35 offences of child abduction in 2018/19, compared to 27 the previous year³.

Police-recorded offences include completed abductions (where a child is actually taken) and attempted abductions. However, many more incidents go unreported to the police and some incidents that are reported may not be recorded.


Police in England and Wales recorded 5,223 kidnappings in 2018/19, an increase of 15% on the previous year¹. The Police Service of Northern Ireland recorded 72 kidnappings in 2018/19, a decrease of 10%³. It is estimated that 10 and 20% of these offences involve victims under the age of 18².

Scottish offences of abduction and child stealing

In 2017/18 Police Scotland recorded 233 offences of abduction (involving both child and adult victims) and one offence of child stealing/plagium⁴.

¹ Office for National Statistics (2019) Crime in England and Wales, year ending March 2019. Office for National Statistics.
² Newiss, G. (2016) Police-recorded child abduction and kidnapping 2013/14 to 2014/15 England, Wales and Northern Ireland. London: Action Against Abduction.
³Police Service of Northern Ireland (2019) Trends in Police Recorded Crime in Northern Ireland Monthly update, period ending 31 March 2019. Belfast: Police Service Northern Ireland.
⁴Scottish Government (2019) correspondence.