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Violent crime levels highest recorded under new logging system

Published 20/10/2016

Statisticians said the rise is thought to largely reflect factors other than an increase in actual levels of violence
Statisticians said the rise is thought to largely reflect factors other than an increase in actual levels of violence

Violent crimes recorded by police have jumped to the highest level since a national standard for logging offences was rolled out 14 years ago.

Official statistics also revealed rises in the number of crimes involving firearms and knives registered by forces in England and Wales in the year to June.

Police recorded just over a million "violence against the person" offences in the period - a 24% rise on the previous year, and the highest number recorded in a 12-month period since the introduction of the national crime recording standard in April 2002.

Statisticians said the trend was thought to largely reflect factors other than a rise in actual levels of violence - but there were "genuine" increases in some categories.

One factor was the inclusion in the category of two harassment offences, which include revenge pornography and internet trolling cases.

John Flatley, of the Office for National Statistics, said: "Violent crime covers a wide spectrum, from minor assaults, harassment and abuse that result in no physical harm to the victim, through to incidents of wounding and murder."

He said the latest figures present a "complex picture", with the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimating similar levels of violent crime to recent years but the number of offences recorded by the police increasing.

"We think the rise in the police figures is due to a combination of factors," Mr Flatley said.

"First, the expansion of the police series to cover new harassment offences.

"Second, a greater proportion of incidents reported to the police being recorded as crimes. At the same time, the crime survey has shown a greater proportion of victims of violent crime reporting to the police.

"Finally, it appears there has been a small but genuine increase in some categories of violent crime."

Police recorded almost 30,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, up by 9% on the previous 12 months, although there has been a general downward trend over the longer term.

Offences involving firearms in the latest year rose by 7% to 5,244.

The ONS report said: "For both knife crime and firearm offences, there appears to be a mixed picture, with some evidence to suggest there has been a small but genuine rise in some areas but also suggestions that it reflects general changes in recording processes."

Police recorded 681 homicides in the year to June. The ONS said the figures include, for the first time, the 96 cases of manslaughter which resulted from events in Hillsborough in 1989.

Meanwhile, victims experienced about 3.6 million fraud and 2 million computer misuse offences in the year before interview. The figures on the two categories are "experimental" but are set to be included in the crime survey total for the first time in the next quarterly report, meaning the headline rate could be almost double the level previously reported.

It was also revealed that sexual offences recorded by the police increased 14% on the previous year, while crime survey estimates showed the proportion of adults who were victims of sexual assaults in the previous year had not significantly changed.

Overall, the headline count based on the crime survey estimated there were 6.4 million incidents of crime - which was not significantly different to 6.5 million the previous year. Police recorded 4.6 million offences in the year ending in June, an annual rise of 7%.

Lucy Hastings, director at the charity Victim Support, said: "While we recognise and welcome the increased willingness of victims to come forward and the better recording of crimes by the police, there is no escaping the very real increase in knife and gun crimes reflected in these figures."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the Tories are "the party of rhetoric on law and order, but serious crimes are rising on their watch".

She added: "Recorded crime is rising under the Tory Government. Knife crime, firearms offences and homicide have all risen."

Policing minister Brandon Lewis said police reform is working and crime has fallen by well over a quarter since June 2010, according to the survey.

He said the ONS is " clear the rise in police-recorded offences largely reflects improved recording practices and a greater willingness of victims to come forward".

National Police Chiefs' Council lead for crime and incident recording Jeff Farrar said: " Crime statistics released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that levels of crime reported through the Crime Survey of England and Wales have remained stable at the lowest levels since surveys began in 1981."

He added: "Police recorded crime has increased by 7%, but rises in public order, sexual offences and in violence without injury have been major factors in this.

"We are not complacent about any crime rises, even if analysis suggests changes to recording and reporting are behind these figures."

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