The number of sex crimes logged by police in England and Wales has hit another record and there were “substantial increases” as lockdown restrictions eased, figures show.
Police-recorded sexual offences reached their highest level in a 12-month period (183,587) in the year to December 2021. This was a 22% increase on 2020 (150,748) and up 13% from 2019 (163,067).
Numbers of crimes recorded were lower during lockdowns but there have been “substantial increases since April 2021”, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 37% of sexual offences recorded (67,125) were rapes – a 21% rise from 55,592 in the 12 months to December 2020.
The ONS said the latest statistics may reflect a “number of factors”, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”.
It comes as separate figures showed the proportion of suspects being taken to court has fallen to a new record low and remains the lowest for rape cases.
While total police-recorded crime saw the “lowest number of offences in the first quarter of the year (January-March 2021)”, during lockdown, from April “recorded crime returned to the levels seen before the pandemic”, according to the ONS report.
It added: “Since restrictions were lifted following the third national lockdown in early 2021, police-recorded crime data show indications that certain offence types are returning to or exceeding the levels seen before the pandemic.
“While violence and sexual offences recorded by the police have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, theft offences and robbery remain at a lower level despite increases over the last nine months.”
Sexual offences recorded by the police were at the highest level recorded within a 12-month period (183,587 offences) in the year ending December 2021, a 22% increase from the previous year. pic.twitter.com/5OTsqCdOnP
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) April 28, 2022
Overall police-recorded violence increased by 13% from 1,780,556 to 2,017,307 in the year ending December 2021, compared with the previous year.
There were 895,782 offences (not including fraud crimes) flagged as domestic abuse-related in 2021, representing a 7% increase from 839,376 offences in the previous year and a 20% increase from 746,219 offences in the 12 months to March 2019.
Stalking and harassment rose by 19%, from 564,591 offences recorded by police in 2020 to 673,129 in 2021.
The increase may be caused by better recording of offences by police forces and victims being more confident in coming forward, the ONS said.
Meanwhile, a Metropolitan Police chief described stalking as a growing “phenomenon” after the force saw cases go from 200 per month before April 2020, to more than 1,000 per month in the past year.
A total of 6.1 million offences were recorded by police in England and Wales in 2021, including fraud and computer misuse.
This was up 8% from 5.6 million in 2020 but roughly the same number as recorded in the 12 months to March 2020, before the coronavirus outbreak.
Separate figures published by the ONS, based on its regular crime survey of England and Wales, suggest that adults experienced 12.8 million offences in 2021, up 18% compared with 2019.
This was “driven by a 54% increase in fraud and computer misuse offences”, which offset falls in other types of crimes such as a 15% drop in theft, the ONS said.
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird, said while it was “encouraging” that more victims were coming forward, she warned that the charging rate “remains in the doldrums”.
She added: “Close to a year since the publication of the Government’s end-to-end rape review, we are yet to see any substantive improvement. The Government’s promise to return to 2016/17 levels of prosecutions by the end of this Parliament remains a pipedream …
“My hope is that we do not betray these victims’ trust like we have failed so many victims in the past.”
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said: “We are seriously concerned that sexual offences have reached a record high for the second year in a row.
“Sadly, these figures reflect what we’re seeing – the number of sexual violence cases referred to us have increased by a third since before the pandemic.
“Tackling this insidious violence needs to be the government’s top priority, alongside ensuring all victims are treated with respect and given support to recover.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the figures “show the grim truth that crime is going up and prosecutions and community penalties are going down”, claiming that under a Conservative government “more criminals are getting away with it and more victims are being let down”.