A NEW law that gives police the powers to stop child grooming earlier has been welcomed by Bradford MPs.

The NSPCC revealed today that the number of abusers in Yorkshire and the Humber meeting children after grooming them had risen 138 per cent in five years.

But from today police will have the powers to stop them sooner as online grooming is now a crime in England and Wales. Police can now arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.

The NSPCC said a law was created in 2015 to make it illegal to send sexual messages to children, but the Government failed to bring it into force in England and Wales, preventing police from arresting groomers until they meet a child or sexually abuse them.

In the year to March 2016, police in Yorkshire and the Humber recorded 93 offences of Meeting a Child Following Sexual Grooming. That number was up from 39 in 2011/2012, according to Home Office figures.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign. It is a victory for common sense.

“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK. This law will give police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts.”

Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said: “Giving the police powers to intervene earlier in these cases, at the grooming stage and before actual abuse starts, is appropriate and very welcome.

“Child abuse is an abhorrent crime and we must make sure our children have the law’s fullest protection.”

Bradford East MP Imran Hussain said: “Any measure that helps to protect our children and prevent their exploitation, either online or offline, has my full support, so I welcome the decision.”

“While this measure will go a long way to ensuring protection for our children, and the police should be given the necessary resources to apply this power, we can however never get complacent in these matters and we can and should always be striving to do more.”

Bradford West MP Naz Shah said: “We very much welcome that police will be able to protect victims by intervening a lot earlier. That is across the board, from politicians and police, and I am behind it as well.

“It means that they can protect the victims before any physical offence happens, which is a massive thing.”

West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster said: "We welcome this change in law which will allow police forces to intervene at an earlier stage and stop abuse before it starts.

"Safeguarding children is our top priority and we are committed to doing all we can to minimise the risks to children and ensure they are protected from harm.

"There has been a significant increase in the number of victims who feel confident in coming forward and reporting offences to West Yorkshire Police.

"Within the Force we have increased resources dedicated to investigating these offences, including appointing more staff across each of our five districts.

"We work closely with local partners to ensure a joint up approach to safeguarding and there are safeguarding units in each districts to deal with all issues around child protection, including grooming, sexual and physical abuse, child exploitation, children missing from home and child neglect.

"We recognise reporting these sorts of offences can be a difficult step to take, but we would like to reassure victims that all reports will be taken seriously and investigated sensitively.

"Each report will be investigated thoroughly with the aim of protecting victims from further harm and securing a conviction against offenders.

"If you are suffering or have suffered child abuse, or suspect you know somebody who is, please report it to the police, Children's Social Care or through a third party such as Barnardos or the NSPCC."