England has worst crime rate in the West

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The crime rate in England and Wales is the highest in the industrialised world, an international study has found.

The crime rate in England and Wales is the highest in the industrialised world, an international study has found.

England and Wales are also placed towards the very top of the international crime league table for car offences, burglary, sex and violent assaults.

The poor comparison with other nations - it shares the overall worst crime rate with Australia - represents an embarrassing blow to Labour's law-and-order credentials in the run-up to the general election.

Some 40,000 people from 17 industrialised countries, including the US, Portugal, France and Poland, were asked whether they had been crime victims as part of the International Crime Victims Survey, which the Home Office help draw up with the Dutch ministry of justice. This system of questioning - similar to that used in the British Crime Survey - is considered more accurate than offences recorded by the police.

In most categories of crime, England and Wales compete with Australia for the top spot. Switzerland, Japan and Northern Ireland are consistently among the most crime-free.

England and Wales came joint top in the overall rate of offences for 10 types of crimes. Like Australia, they recorded 58 offences for every 100 inhabitants during 1999. This total is far higher than the official figures because many crimes are not reported.

Scotland was just above average with a rate of 43 per 100 inhabitants and Northern Ireland was one of the lowest with 24. Japan had the lowest rate, with 23 offences per 100 inhabitants. England and Wales also had the highest number of crimes categorised as "very serious" - 18 per 100 inhabitants. Offences involving robbery, sexual and physical assault were highest in Australia, followed by England and Wales. Scotland was fourth.

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said: "While I pay tribute to the police, councils and communities for their hard work in reducing crime, no one should be under any illusions about the challenge ahead."

Comments