Police recorded 1,035,046 incidents of violence against the person in 2004-05, an increase of 8 per cent on the 955,800 the previous year, the Home Office said. More than half of the victims suffered an injury.
Ministers insisted the increase in the total crime figure was proof of police success in tackling drunken rowdiness, as officers made more arrests, and also attributed some of the rise to changes in recording methods. But the Tories said it was fresh evidence of government failure to tackle violent crime.
Including sex crimes and robbery, 1,184,702 violent offences were recorded in England and Wales, a rise of 7 per cent on the previous year.
A total of 859 murders were recorded, six more than the year before and the third-highest figure on record, while gun crime increased by 6 per cent. Almost 61,000 sex offences were recorded, a rise of 8 per cent, which the Home Office explained by noting the inclusion for the first time of indecent exposure in the figure.
Overall, 5,562,691 criminal offences were logged by police, a fall of 6 per cent, with large falls across the range of property crime. The number of house burglaries plummeted by 20 per cent to 321,459, vehicle crime was down 17 per cent to 738,531 and incidents of fraud and forgery fell 10 per cent to 278,902.
The Home Office also published the British Crime Survey, based on 45,000 interviews with the public, which it says presents a more accurate snapshot of crime trends. It estimated that 10.85 million crimes were committed in the year, a fall of 7 per cent. On its figures, violent crime dropped by 11 per cent, domestic burglary by 20 per cent and vehicle crime by 11 per cent. It suggested the risk of being a victim of crime over the year had fallen from 26 to 24 per cent.
Ministers said they were pleased by a 3 per cent rise in the detection rate, with 1.4 million crimes solved this year, although critics pointed out it still only amounted to 10 detections per police officer per year.
Hazel Blears, the police minister, said: "People are less tolerant of violence so they are reporting much more. They are not prepared to tolerate the kind of scuffling and fighting that might not have ended up in the figures before." David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This rise is a consequence of the Government's failure even to begin fighting the war on drugs."
The BCS survey found that 61 per cent of people thought crime had risen in the previous two years, with 27 per cent believing it had risen "a lot".