Police-recorded crime in England and Wales hits highest level on record

·6-min read

Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of crimes in 20 years, driven by a sharp rise in offences including fraud, rape and violent attacks.

A total of 6.3 million crimes were recorded in the year to March 2022 – 4% higher than the previous all-time high of 6.1 million in 2019/20.

It is also up 16% on 2020/21, when crime levels were affected by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The figures, which have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show knife crime, theft and domestic abuse all increased in the 12 months to March.

Police-recorded sexual & rape offences in England & Wales.
(PA Graphics)

Police-recorded offences of fraud and computer misuse have risen 17%, from 828,364 in 2020/21 to 965,162 in 2021/22.

Knife crime rose by 10% to 49,027 offences in the year to March, compared to 44,642 in the previous 12 months – though this is below the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20, which saw 55,078 offences.

Various types of police-recorded crime are now at their highest level since current records began in 2002/03, including the number of rape offences (70,330 in 2021/22), all sexual offences (194,683), stalking and harassment offences (722,574), and all violence against the person offences (2.1 million).

There were 909,504 domestic abused-related offences recorded in 2021/22, up 8% on 2020/21 and up 12% on the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

Some of this increase may reflect improvements seen in reporting over the last few years.

Police-recorded crime in England & Wales
(PA Graphics)

Responding to the figures, Diana Fawcett, chief executive at the charity Victim Support, said: “Record rises in crime levels are always worrying – behind these statistics are real people, and being a victim of any crime can have a devastating and long lasting impact.

“Regardless of the reason for the increase, this huge rise in recorded crime coincides with victims across the country facing agonisingly long waits for trial.

“With the highest number of cases for 20 years coming into the criminal justice system, we need urgent action to address the backlog of cases, to ensure that those who’ve had the courage to report a crime get the justice they deserve.”

Billy Gazard of the ONS said: “Sexual offences recorded by the police were at the highest level recorded within a 12-month period in the year ending March 2022, a 32% increase from the previous year.

“These changes may reflect a number of factors including the impact of high-profile cases and campaigns on victims’ willingness to report incidents.”

The number of sex offences recorded by forces in England and Wales has more than doubled in the past seven years, from 88,576 in 2014/15 to 194,683 in 2021/22.

Rape offences have nearly doubled in the past six years, from 36,320 in 2015/16 to 70,330 in the year to March.

While theft offences jumped by 15% to 1.5 million in 2021/22, this is still below pre-pandemic levels, when the number topped two million.

Many subcategories of theft saw an increase in the latest figures, though this follows a sharp drop in 2020/21 when levels were affected by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Theft from the person was up 77% in the year to March, theft of a motor vehicle was up 22% and shoplifting rose 21%.

Separate figures published on Thursday by the Home Office show that just 5.6% of offences in England and Wales in 2021/22 – around one in 18 – resulted in a charge and/or summons, down from 7.1%, or one in 14, in 2020/21.

The charge rate has been on a downwards trend for several years and now stands at around a third of the level in 2014/15, when it was 15.5%.

The proportion of offences that had not been assigned an outcome by police forces at the time of reporting rose from 7.8% in 2020/21 to 11.7% in 2021/22.

The figure stood at 7.3% in 2014/15.

The Home Office said these trends “are likely to reflect, in part, improved crime recording processes as well as a more complex crime caseload being dealt with by the police, with the rise in violence against the person and sexual offences”.

Data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) shows there were 1,733 rape convictions in England and Wales in 2021/22, up from 1,109 in 2021/21 and also above the 1,439 in the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

The conviction rate for rape cases stood at 68.3% in the year to March 2022, down from 71.2% in 2020/21 but broadly unchanged from 68.5% in 2019/20.

The number of rape suspects charged increased from 1,955 in 2020/2021 to 2,223 in 2021/2022, a rise of 14%.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, and Chief Constable Sarah Crew, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for rape and adult sexual offences, said: “Rape is a devastating offence and we are committed to improving every aspect of how these life-changing crimes are dealt with.

“Close joint working from the very start of an investigation means we can build the best possible cases more quickly.

“With police going to the CPS earlier in the process and more often, the rise in charging decisions will lead to more trials and more convictions.

“Early advice in these cases has been key in helping us use our joint resources more effectively and narrow the gap between the number of offences reported to the police and cases going to court.”

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