Rape cases at highest-ever level, ONS figures reveal

The number of rapes recorded by police are at the highest ever level,  the Office for National Statistics reveals

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The Independent Online

Numbers of rapes recorded by police are running at their highest ever level as almost 68,000 sexual offences were reported in England and Wales over the last year.

More than 22,000 complaints of rape were made in the 12 months to June, a rise of 29 per cent. They included a 48 per cent increase to 294 offences in the number of rapes involving a knife or sharp instrument.

The surge in reports of sexual offences is likely to be driven by an increased willingness of victims to come forward, as well as changes to police recording practices.

The handling of crime statistics by police officers has been heavily criticised over the last year, with accusations that some forces have tried to keep offences “off the books” to keep their overall statistics low.

Numbers of assaults were up by 11 per cent and public order offences increased by 6 per cent.

The overall level of recorded crime remained unchanged with 3.7m offences reported over the year.

However, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), which is based on interviews with the public and is regarded by many experts as the most reliable measure of crime, estimated that 7.1m offences took place over the period, a sharp fall of 16 per cent and the lowest figure on record.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the 21 per cent rise in sexual offences reflected the pattern of recent years. It added: “Current, rather than historic, offences account for the majority of the increase in sexual offences.”

Some of the other recorded crime increases – including rises in violence against the person and public order offences – are likely to have been caused by changes to the way police record complaints.

Shoplifting went up by 5 per cent, which the ONS suggested was likely to be a genuine increase rather than any change in recording practice.

The CSEW reported falls of 23 per cent in violence, 20 per cent in criminal damage and 12 per cent in theft.

Separate figures showed hate crimes rose by 5 per cent to 44,480 offences in the period, with much of the increase accounted for by a leap in Islamophobic incidents following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby last year.