Child abuse is on the rise and experts fear reported cases are 'only the tip of the iceberg'. The concerns were raised after a stepfather was sentenced to four years in jail on Wednesday for beating his two-year-old to death. 'The numbers are increasing,' Against Child Abuse director Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai said. 'And I believe the number of cases does not reflect the real extent of it.' The most serious cases of neglect go unreported, she said. And only a fraction of sexual abuse cases find their way into social workers' files or courtrooms. The Social Welfare Department reported 414 cases of child abuse in 1994. The number climbed to 457 in 1995, and reached 604 last year. There are 763 active cases of abuse and suspected abuse on file at the Child Protection Registry. The number under police investigation is much smaller. The Police Child Protection Unit was established in 1995. From December of that year up until the end of last month 82 cases of physical abuse were investigated. For sexual abuse, the number was 238. 'Bringing police in and criminalising all cases regardless of severity and circumstances is inappropriate,' Ms Lui said. 'Families facing difficulties must strive hard to seek help from the Government. 'Relatives and neighbours should provide necessary support and refer needy parties to relevant agencies.' But the law does have a crucial role to play, she added. 'The sanction attached to the legislation reflects the value attached. 'It shows the importance of children in our community and the determination to ensure adequate protection and respect of their rights.' Ms Lui said part of the reason for the increase in reported cases was because people were less afraid to come forward. On Monday, Candy Law Nim-ying, 25, was freed after a judge put her on probation for letting her six-month-old baby die of thirst. Last month, Urban Services Department worker Tsui Po-ming, 36, was fined $1,000 for biting his five-year-old son all over his body. On April 5, decorator Chan Fu-cheung, 36, was given a three-month suspended sentence for punching his 10-year-old stepson and beating his arms, legs, back and hip with a metal rod to punish him for vomiting. On April 28, a mother who drowned her nine-year-old daughter and stuffed her body in a fridge was sent to a psychiatric centre for two years.