Crime rises by half a million reported offences in England and Wales over last year, official figures show

Office for National Statistics says rise driven by better recording and ‘genuine increases in crime’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Thursday 19 October 2017 10:47
Crime recorded by police has increased by 13 per cent in England and Wales
Crime recorded by police has increased by 13 per cent in England and Wales

Violent crime is driving a dramatic rise in offences recorded by police in England and Wales, causing officers to warn that the situation could worsen without increased government support.

Documented crime rose by 13 per cent to 5.2 million offences in the year to June – an increase of 583,782 offences in real terms.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rise represented both a genuine increase in some offences and improvements to the way they are recorded by police.

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John Flatley, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said: “Today’s figures suggest that the police are dealing with a growing volume of crime.

“While improvements made by police forces in recording crime are still a factor in the increase, we judge that there have been genuine increases in crime – particularly in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories.”

Mr Flatley added that separate figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which is considered a better indicator of long-term trends because it also records unreported offences, has shown an overall decline in crime.

Calum Macleod, vice chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “I can see little chance of this sorry state of affairs changing anytime soon.

“Every day officers set out to protect their communities from harm but every day their job is being made more difficult with cuts in funding and cuts in numbers but zero cuts in demand.

“Ultimately the public suffer, as the figures show, and their safety is compromised.”

(ONS

The Federation, which represents almost 123,000 police officers, said the “dangerous reality of policing is plain to see” with rising violent crime.

Mr Macloed said officers themselves were suffering “at the hands of volatile and dangerous individuals”, adding: “The Government need to wake up to what’s happening right in front of their eyes.

“Forces are trying to play their part in meeting demand but it can’t be one-way traffic. More needs to be done to support them to achieve this.”

More than 600 homicides were reported – a 2 per cent decrease on the previous year – but the ONS said the statistic had been affected by incidents with multiple victims.

Among them were the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster – which saw manslaughter charges brought for the first time this year – and people killed in terror attacks.

When Hillsborough and the atrocities in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park are excluded, the homicide tally went up by 46, following a “general upward trend” seen in recent years.

There was also a substantial increase of 59 per cent in the number of attempted murder offences, largely due to 294 offences recorded in terror attacks.

More than 1.2 million “violence against the person” offences were recorded, up a fifth on the previous year.

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The ONS said the biggest increases were seen in stalking and violence without injury, adding: “Most of this volume increase was thought to result from improved recording practices but it is likely that rises in the most serious categories reflect genuine rises in violent crime.”

Knife crime has risen by more than a quarter to the highest level in six years, the figures revealed in a week that has seen three people stabbed to death in London in little over 24 hours.

Out of 44 forces, 38 experienced a rise but the Metropolitan Police saw the largest jump, accounting for almost half the total increase across England and Wales.

“While some of the rise in offences involving knives may reflect improvements in recording practices, it is thought that the main driver has been a genuine rise in knife crime in areas such as London,” a spokesperson for the ONS said.

“It is also possible that more targeted police action to tackle knife crime may have led to more offences coming to the attention of the police than might otherwise have done so.”

Police recorded almost 37,000 attacks involving a knife or sharp instrument in the year to June; mostly assault, murder and robbery, which made up more than a third of all knife crime.

There was an increase of 19 per cent in the number of sexual offences recorded by the police, which rose to 129,700 offences.

Rape increased by almost a quarter to 45,100 offences, while other sexual offences increased by 17 per cent to 84,600 and those against children contributed to over one third of the total increase.

Previous figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) showed that offences including rape, harassment and forced marriage now make up a fifth of its caseload in England and Wales.

A quarter of all sexual offences recorded by police last year were “non-recent”, meaning they took place more than 12 months before being reported.

A spokesperson for the ONS said there was an “increased willingness of victims to come forward” to the police following high-profile media coverage of operations including Operation Yewtree – into abuse by Jimmy Savile and others – and allegations by former footballers.

There were 1,771 grooming offences recorded – an increase of 64 per cent following the introduction of a law that made it illegal to send sexual messages to a child.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said the reasons behind the increase needed “urgent attention”.

“More young people are speaking up about sexual grooming, and it’s vital that now more than ever police are given the training and the resources to tackle this issue,” he added.

“Groomers need to be stopped before they go to meet their victim … We all have a part to play in keeping children safe online.”

Theft has also increased by 11 per cent, including burglary, stealing vehicles and shoplifting, with the largest rise seen in bicycle theft.

(ONS

The ONS attributed the change to more victims coming forward to police and forces improving recording practices, following a 2014 inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary that “identified significant under-recording” of the crimes.

Figures also revealed that there were 711 deaths or serious injuries caused by illegal driving, and a rise in bank and credit card fraud.

They were released after separate statistics from the Home Office showed unprecedented spikes in hate crime in the wake of the EU referendum, and terror attacks in the UK.

Data from police forces across England and Wales showed there were almost 80,400 hate crimes recorded in 2016/17 – a 29 per cent rise from the previous year and the largest annual increase since records began.

The Home Office announced new measures to tackle violent crime last week, including a ban on the sale of corrosive substances to under 18s, increasing punishments for carrying acid and restricting the online sales of knives.

Sarah Newton, the crime minister, said offences traditionally measured by the survey are down by almost 40 per cent since 2010, and by 70 per cent since a peak in 1995.

She welcomed improvements in police recording and said it was good that more victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence feel empowered to come forward.

“But while it is clear that much of the rise in police-recorded violent offences is due to better recording, we know that some of this increase is likely to be genuine,” Ms Newton added.

She said the Government is taking “urgent action” to stop these crimes and keep communities safe, pointing to measures aiming to tackle acid attacks and knife offences, domestic abuse and cyber crime.