‘Women deserve better’ – Police-recorded crime hits high after sex offences rise

Victim support groups have said “women deserve better” after a sharp rise in violent and sexual offences led to a record high for police-recorded crime in England and Wales.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told the PA news agency the force would be combating the rise by recruiting thousands more officers.

Assistant Commissioner of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Louisa Rolfe said “policing recognises that more must be done” to tackle the rise in recorded sex offences, adding: “It shows that we must continue in our efforts to tackle this type of offending.”

New figures show a total of 6.5 million crimes were recorded in the 12 months to June 2022, up from the previous all-time high of 6.3 million in the year to March.

The figure is also up 12% compared with the year to June 2021, when crime levels were affected by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The number of recorded sexual offences fell during periods of lockdown but there have been “substantial increases” since April 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which published the figures.

The Home Office said the number of rapes and sexual offences was “very concerning”, adding it was “very clear that there is still a long way to go in tackling rape” despite suggestions more victims are coming forward.

The total includes 196,889 sexual offences, up 20% year-on-year from 164,043 and 21% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Reacting to the figures, Diana Fawcett, chief executive at the charity Victim Support, said: “This huge increase in sexual violence, in particular rape, reported to the police is seriously alarming and a stark reminder that the government needs to get a grip on staggeringly low conviction rates and horrendous court delays.

“Things simply can’t go on like this – women deserve better.”

When asked how police forces like the Met will respond to record-high crime rates in England and Wales, Sir Mark told PA: “We’re bearing down on all types of crime, whether it’s public space crime or domestic abuse and rape.

“We’re looking to improve our performance the whole time, that’s why we’re recruiting more officers.

“The police uplift programme is fantastic – we’ve recruited nearly 10,000 officers in the last three years, and as these young men and women find their feet and build their experience it will help us reduce crime in London.”

Some 9,400 new recruits have joined the Metropolitan Police in the past three years.

The ONS said the increases in recorded sex offences may reflect “media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police”, as well as “the impact of high-profile incidents”.

Incidents such as the murder of Sarah Everard led former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to publicly say it was “infuriating” that cases involving violence against women and girls were not being taken seriously enough by police.

Met Police officer Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence on September 21 last year for the kidnap, rape and murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

The killing on March 3 last year prompted the force to vow to make the streets safer for women and girls.

The ONS said the increase in recorded sexual offences could also reflect “a potential increase in the number of victims”.

Some 2.1 million violent crimes against a person were recorded by police in the 12 months to June, up 13% year-on-year and up 20% on pre-pandemic levels.

Comparable data for police-recorded crime begins in 2002.

Wayne Couzens court case
Sarah Everard was killed on March 3 last year (Family handout/PA)

There were 70,600 rape offences recorded in the year to June, another record high and an increase of 20% from 59,046 in 2019/20.

The number has nearly doubled in just over six years, from 36,321 in 2015/16.

Domestic-abuse related offences totalled 912,181 in the year to June, up 6% on the previous 12 months and up 14% in 2019/20.

Some of this increase “may reflect improvements seen in recording and reporting over the last few years,” the ONS added.

Knife crime remains below pre-pandemic levels, mainly because the number of knife-enabled robberies was 27% lower in the year to June compared with 2019/20.

A total of 49,991 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument were recorded by forces in the 12 months to June, up 8% year-on-year but below the 55,076 offences in the 12 months to March 2020.

Levels of knife crime fell during the early part of the pandemic due to government restrictions on social contact.

Homicide numbers are also still below pre-pandemic levels, with 679 recorded in the year to June, a drop of 5% on the year to March 2020.

Separate figures published on Thursday by the Home Office show that just 5.4% of offences in England and Wales in the 12 months to June 2022 resulted in a charge and/or summons, compared with 5.6% in 2021/22 and 7.1% 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%.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is good to see an 8% rise in the volume of charges for rape offences. However, the volume of rapes and sexual offences is very concerning.

“Some of the increase in reporting can be attributed to more victims coming forward, and we welcome that, as these crimes can all too often be hidden. It’s very clear that there is still a long way to go in tackling rape.

“That’s why we’re working on an ambitious programme, Operation Soteria, to transform rape investigations and prosecutions.

“We need the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to do more and raise the bar, so that victims know they will be taken seriously and the criminals responsible are put behind bars.”

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “After 12 years of the Conservatives more criminals are getting away with it, fewer criminals are being arrested or charged, and more victims are being let down.

“For the charge rate to now be at a record low is a complete disgrace and unfair on victims and communities who need to see justice.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for national crime, Ms Rolfe, added: “The latest figures show that total crime has decreased, including falls in burglary, robbery, vehicle offences and crimes involving knives or firearms, which is positive.

“That said, sadly levels of sexual offences have risen, and while this may be in part due to victims having more confidence to report, it shows that we must continue in our efforts to tackle this type of offending.

“Policing recognises that more must be done to see the response to rape and sexual offences improve. We are committed to this and are working closer than ever with the CPS and partners across the criminal justice system.”