Belfast Telegraph

Shock as number of sexual offences reported to PSNI is highest in two decades

by victoria leonard

The number of sex offences reported to police in Northern Ireland has reached a 20-year high.

A total of 3,443 sexual offences were reported to the PSNI in the 12 months to April - the highest in two decades, and triple the number reported in 2000/01.

The shocking figures were revealed as the PSNI published its annual crime statistics for 2017/18 yesterday.

In total, 98,301 crimes were recorded by the PSNI in the last 12 months, a rise of 0.3% on the previous year when 98,104 crimes were recorded. It was the second lowest total since 1998/99.

The figures do not include conviction rates.

A series of other reports have indicated that many sex offence cases do not result in someone being convicted.

Last month the Public Prosecution Service revealed that of the 64 defendants who appeared at the Crown Court accused of rape in 2016/17, just 15 were found guilty (23.4%).

Helena Bracken from Nexus NI, a support group for people affected by sexual violence, said the increase in the number of reported sex offences was "shocking and frightening", but added it was encouraging that more victims are coming forward.

"It's shocking to hear that reported offences are at a 20-year high," she said.

"However, with the rise of the #MeToo movement, the Weinstein scandal and the Belfast rape trial, more people are coming forward than before.

"People are realising that they are victims - it's not their fault.

"We currently have a waiting list of over 700 people on our books, and in the wake of the Belfast rugby rape trial we were getting 15 referrals a day.

"However, it is worth noting that a lot of sexual offences are still going unreported, and the conviction rate for these crimes remains low."

Yesterday's figures also show that reported domestic abuse offences are at a 10-year high.

Nearly 30,000 incidents with a domestic abuse motivation were recorded by the PSNI in 2017/18 - an increase of 747 on 2016/17 and the highest figure recorded here since 2004/05.

The number of crimes with a domestic abuse motivation reached a record high of 14,560 in 2017/18, up by 4.5% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, drug crimes also reached a 20-year high, rising by 20.1% to 6,502 recorded offences. There was also a 23.9% increase in drug seizures to 6,872 incidents.

In addition, 3,121 people were arrested for drug-related offences, 419 more than 2016/17.

Possession of weapons offences climbed to 1,000 - the highest recorded level. And violence against the person offences increased by 2.4% to 34,162 offences.

Anti-social behaviour reached a five-year high of 61,207 recorded incidents in 2017/18, an increase of 2.5% on the previous year. Belfast accounted for nearly a third of all anti-social behaviour incidents.

However, robbery, public order offences, criminal damage and theft were down.

Robbery offences fell to a 20-year low of 577 crimes, while public order offences reached their lowest levels since 2005/6, with 1,107 offences.

Criminal damage fell by 6.1% to 18,290 offences, and theft, including burglary, fell by 2.4% to 30,262.

In addition, there was a fall in security-related deaths and casualties resulting from paramilitary-style attacks.

In the past year, there were two security-related deaths, 50 shootings and 18 bombings.

Paramilitary-style attacks caused 87 casualties, seven fewer than the previous year.

Loyalists were deemed responsible for 50 of the 65 casualties of paramilitary-style assaults.

Casualties from paramilitary-style shootings fell from 28 to 22 in 2017/18, and all except one were attributed to republican groups.

In addition, 176 people were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said that the PSNI was "committed to 'Keeping People Safe'."

He said: "The figures show a snapshot of the crime types which we are dealing with but it is also important to acknowledge that although the statistics show a number of reductions, demand on policing is increasing and becoming more complex as less visible, more complex crimes such as public protection and cyber-crime reports increase.

"We are removing more drugs off our streets and reducing the harm to our communities and bringing those responsible before the courts.

"We welcome the increase in reports and believe that this shows increasing confidence in the police service."

Belfast Telegraph

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