Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of rapes and the second highest number of sexual offences in a 12-month period, figures show.
There were 61,158 rapes recorded in the year to June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), up 10% from the previous period (55,779). This was the highest ever recorded annual figure to date and included 17,285 offences between April and June – also the highest quarterly figure.
The figures are the first to include the weeks and months immediately after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March.
The second highest number of sexual offences was also recorded in the 12 months to June (164,763), an 8% increase compared to 152,659 the previous year. This was driven by the highest ever recorded quarterly figure (48,553) for the same three-month period in 2021.
Rape accounted for 37% of all sexual offences recorded by police.
It comes as separate figures showed the proportion of suspects being taken to court has fallen to a record low and remains the lowest for rape cases.
Nick Stripe, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said the police figures show a “large increase in the recording of rape and sexual offences during the latest April to June 2021 quarter”, but urged caution when interpreting the data, adding: “The rise could be due to an increase in victim reporting as lockdowns eased, an increase in the number of victims, or to an increase in victims’ willingness to report incidents, potentially as a result of high-profile cases and campaigns in recent times.”
Ms Everard, 33, was attacked and killed by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, prompting a national debate about sexual violence, the safety of women and the response from government, police and prosecutors.
Dame Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, said the rise may offer a “glimmer of hope” as it could indicate victims were having the confidence to come forward and police were listening.
But she warned “cautious optimism quickly fades” in light of the “catastrophically low” charging rate, adding: “This is an intolerable situation and it simply must be reversed. Warm words must now turn into serious action.”
Jeffrey DeMarco, assistant director at the charity Victim Support, said: “Much more needs to be done urgently to tackle both these offences and to ensure that those who come forward and report them are able to access justice.”
Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the figures demonstrated the “shameful scale of violent crime against women and girls”.
The police recorded 846,235 offences (not including fraud crimes) flagged as domestic abuse-related for the 12-month period, representing a 6% increase from 813,958 offences in the previous year.
This included 687,328 offences of violence against the person labelled as domestic abuse-related, a 7% increase compared to the previous year (641,672).
The ONS said it is “difficult to determine” the levels of domestic abuse in the country using police recorded data because of changes in the way the crimes are reported so “we cannot conclude whether there has been an increase in the number of victims of domestic abuse”, but added: “Data from victim services suggests that experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during periods of national lockdown and that victims faced difficulties in safely seeking support under these conditions.”
Domestic abuse-related crimes and sexual offences recorded by police “do not provide a reliable measure of trends in these types of crime” as improvements in police recording practices and increased reporting by victims have contributed to rises in recent years”, the ONS stressed.
It added: “The figures do, however, provide a good measure of the crime-related demand on the police.”
Stalking and harassment also rose by 30% from 517,595 offences recorded by police in 2019/20 to 673,605 in 2020/21.
The Home Office insisted it was “providing the leadership needed to help end violence against women and girls”, adding: “It is encouraging that more victims of sexual violence are coming forward and the Home Secretary has been clear that police must raise the bar in handling such cases, so victims know they will be taken seriously and the criminals responsible are put behind bars.”
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