Sharp rise reported in violent crime

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The Independent Online

Violent crime recorded by police rose by 4% in the third quarter of last year including an 11% jump in robbery, official figures showed today.

There were 315,800 violent incidents in the three months to September, compared with 304,300 in the same period in 2004.

The number of robberies recorded by police leapt to 23,500, but total recorded crime fell 1% to 1,376,200 incidents in the period.

In the wake of today's statistics, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced a major cross-party review of the way crime figures are compiled and published.

In the year to the end of September, gun crime rose 1% to 11,110 incidents, compared with 10,950 in the previous 12 months.

Violence against the person rose 4% overall, although more serious cases including homicide, threats to murder and serious woundings fell by 10%.

Offences in a lower category involving crimes such as less serious woundings rose by 10%.

The Home Office's firearms data showed the number of serious injuries from gun crimes rose by 18% to 470, and slight injuries leapt 35% to 3,600 in the year.

However, the number of gun deaths fell 38% to 50 in the 12 months, compared with 80 in the previous year.

Handguns accounted for 4,650 of the firearms offences and the number of imitation firearms rose by 4% to 3,210.

Incidents involving "unidentified" firearms also rose 4%, and "other" firearms by 6%.

Criminal use of rifles rose 40% but the number of cases was small - 70, up from 50 the previous year. Use of shotguns fell by 12% to 590.

The Home Office also released figures from the British Crime Survey for the year to the end of September, which suggested overall crime fell 2%, and violent crime fell by 5%.

Further Home Office data showed there were 839 deaths recorded as homicides in England and Wales in 2004-05, a fall of 2% year-on-year.

But shootings accounted for 9.4% of homicides in the year, up from 8.7%.

Stabbings were the most common form of homicide, accounting for 29% of cases.

Of the 839, 137 led to a murder conviction and 127 a manslaughter or infanticide conviction, with a further 401 pending.

In 56 cases, proceedings were discontinued or not initiated, the suspect died or was declared insane.

There were 98 cases in which no suspect had been charged and one in which a suspect had been acquitted.

The Director of the Victims of Crime Trust, Norman Brennan, said the Government should recruit at least 50,000 extra police officers to crack down on crime.

"Despite the many headline-grabbing initiatives the Government has introduced, there is not one that has made the streets of Britain any safer since they came to power," he said.

"It is not just the criminals that we should be putting in the dock, but this Government and its record in law and order for the biggest deception I have ever witnessed.

"Police have lost control of some towns and cities across the UK and it is not just the public or victims of crime who tell me this, but police officers themselves.

"If the Government has any chance of reclaiming the streets, we need to recruit at least 50,000 new police officers and reduce the huge amount of red tape, political correctness and bureaucracy which has in effect handcuffed the police while the criminal element runs amok."

He added: "We also need to build at least six further prisons and in essence we need to reclaim the streets from the criminal untouchables."

In announcing the major cross-party review of the way crime figures are compiled and published, the Home Secretary

revealed the creation of an independent group of party political nominees, leading statisticians and representatives from the media.

"I have been concerned for some time that Home Office crime statistics have been questioned and challenged.

"This has got to the point that most people seem confused about what is happening to crime in this country.

"This is why I have established an independent cross-party group of experts to look at this issue.

"I have asked the group to feel free to advise me in whatever way they feel appropriate to help us increase public confidence in our measures of crime."

The review group will be chaired by statistician, Professor Adrian Smith.

Members will include: Dr David Green, the director of the Civitas and Conservative party nominee, plus a Liberal Democrat nominee to be confirmed; former chief executive of Victim Support Dame Helen Reeves; Sunday Times columnist Dr Irwin Stelzer; and chief executive of the Guardian Media Group Robert Phillis.

Mr Clarke said: "Despite the fact that most crime categories are falling, fear of crime is still too high and public perception is often at odds with reality.

"That is why we need to look again at the statistics and find out why people do not believe them.

"I want to get to a situation, on a cross-party basis, where we all agree on how crime in this country is going to be measured and are assured that the statistics are produced in an independent way that commands public credibility."