Fall in historic sex crime reports
Fewer victims of historic sex crimes are coming forward in the wake of the so-called "Yewtree effect", figures have revealed.
The number of reported sexual offences has repeatedly risen since abuse allegations against late DJ Jimmy Savile emerged and Scotland Yard launched its national sex crime inquiry, Operation Yewtree.
Figures published today showed that, in the year to December 2013, the number of sex crimes reported rose by 17%; however, the proportion that was historic offences dropped.
According to police figures for England and Wales, in 2013 historic sexual offences - defined as crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago - made up 41% of the increase, but this is now 21%.
And in the quarter ending June 2013, offences that occurred in the last 12 months made up 24% of the increase, and in the three months to December 2013, it made up 50%.
Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that there had been a 15% overall drop in crime compared with the previous year, while police figures showed a 2% fall.
The police decrease was smaller than in previous years, but this has been put down to improvements in recording in the wake of concerns about the quality of data, that led to the police figures being stripped of their official "gold standard" status by the statistics watchdog.
Police data showed an increase in shoplifting of 6%, and rises were seen in 34 out of 43 forces in England and Wales, but there were signs of a North-South divide, with increases greater in the North.
Fraud has also risen by 25%, which is being put down to new centralised recording through Action Fraud, rather than figures being collated locally by police forces.
Theft from the person was also down by 2%, the first fall that has been seen in the past two years. In previous years increases were fuelled by phone theft in London but there have since been drives to reduce this type of crime.
Violence was down by 22% in the survey, mirroring the result of a poll published yesterday, which suggested that an increase in alcohol prices is partly responsible for a reduction in binge-drinking and serious violence for the fifth consecutive year.
The number of people injured in serious violence dropped by 12% in 2013 compared with 2012, with more than 32,000 fewer people treated for injuries relating to violence in England and Wales, a Cardiff University report found.
However police data showed a 1% increase in violence against the person, with around around half of police forces seeing a rise, notably Gwent where it went up 26% and Kent by 25%. However, these are both forces that have recently made changes to the way that they record crime.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: "We can have confidence that England and Wales are safer than they have been for decades, with crime at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981.
"The Government has a strong record on reinforcing the independence and accountability of the statistics.
"We asked HMIC last June to carry out an audit of the quality of crime recording in every police force, and the Home Secretary has written to Chief Constables emphasising that the police must ensure that crimes are recorded accurately and honestly."
Further questions were raised about police statistics by whistleblower Pc James Patrick, who claimed massaging data to meet targets was "ingrained" at Scotland Yard.
Today the College of Policing has sent out copies of a new code of ethics to all chief constables, which includes a clause that officers and staff must "comply with the national crime recording standard".
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive at Victim Support, said: "While we welcome this significant fall in crime, it is important to remember that for many of the victims of 7.5 million crimes committed last year the impact will have been severe and long-lasting.
"We are concerned to see a rise in fraud and shoplifting, crimes which can be wrongly perceived to have little effect on victims but are often very harmful to individuals, businesses and, in some cases, communities."
He also stressed that victims of sexual offences must be treated with sensitivity.
"We know that far too many victims of sexual violence suffer in silence, often for many years, and so we welcome this apparent increase in confidence among them to come forward and report their ordeals," Mr Pemberton said.
"However, it is critical that the criminal justice system recognises their courage by treating them with sensitivity and respect and ensures they receive all the specialist support they need to help them get the justice they deserve."
Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, who leads on crime statistics for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "The statistics issued today are heartening but unsurprising.
"They confirm to us that crime is continuing to fall and that the effect of prominent operations, such as Yewtree and the launch of Action Fraud, are resulting in more reporting of sexual offences and fraudulent activity.
"Increased reporting allows us to get the fullest picture of these crime areas and make sure our work to combat them is properly resourced, as well as ensuring that we can maintain public confidence in the policing response.
"The police service is committed to further cutting crime and using our resources as efficiently as possible so as to keep the country as safe as possible."