Number of sex offences recorded by police in England and Wales hits new high

The number of police-recorded sexual offences in England and Wales has hit a new record high.

There were 199,021 sex crimes logged by forces in the year to September 2022. This is up 22% compared with the year ending March 2020 (163,244), prior to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

CRIME Figures
(PA Graphics)

Of these, 35% (70,633) were rapes – a 20% increase from the 59,104 recorded in the 12 months to March 2020.

The figures, published on Thursday, also show the overall number of crimes recorded by England and Wales police forces exceeded pre-pandemic levels to reach 6.6 million in the 12 months to September. This was 10% higher than the year to March 2020 when 6.1 million offences were recorded.

The number of offences police flagged as domestic abuse-related rose by 14% from 798,607 in the year to March 2020 to 910,980 in the same period last year.

There were rises in the numbers of homicides and robberies, as well as crimes involving knives and firearms recorded by police in the last year since restrictions on movement ended. But all remain below levels seen before the pandemic.

The ONS urged “caution” when interpreting the data, stressing that the rise in reports of sexual offences could be affected by a “number of factors” including improvements in how police record crime as well as victims being more willing to come forward and report incidents in light of high-profile cases and campaigns.

The rise in overall crime was “largely driven by increases in the offence categories, which are most subject to changes in reporting and recording practices” so “may not reflect a genuine increase in crime”.

Some of the “continued increase” in crimes recorded as being linked to domestic abuse “may reflect increased reporting by victims over the last few years”, the ONS added.

It comes as separate figures show the proportion of suspects being taken to court remains at one of its lowest ever levels.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: “This huge rise in recorded sexual offences comes as the percentage of cases seeing justice has plummeted to an abysmal new low.

“Charges for rape and sexual offences have been falling sharply for the past six years – the system is in crisis. We are on a path to destroying victims’ faith in the criminal justice system all together.

“Police and the CPS have a duty to survivors who have experienced life-changing trauma – they must do better and start delivering justice.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, claimed rape victims were being “systematically let down by this government, with action against rapists totally failing to keep up with record levels of reporting”, adding: “Victims of these hideous crimes need and deserve the best possible support.”

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Police-recorded crime figures are a “better indicator of police activity”, rather than providing a reliable insight into crime trends, according to Meghan Elkin from the ONS.

She said: “While police-recorded sexual offences are the highest annual figures recorded for England and Wales, the crime survey shows no significant change in prevalence.

“The police figures are influenced by a number of factors including willingness to report. And for forces where data is available, we see that 22% of all sexual offences reported last year had taken place over a year prior to the incident being recorded,” she added.

Policing and crime minister Chris Philp said: “We need to stop rapes from happening and put more predators behind bars.

“With huge efforts under way across the criminal justice system, we are now starting to see signs of improvement in the number of charges and prosecutions.”