Surge in 'obscene pics' crimes
Offences linked to obscene and sexually explicit photos being sent via mobile phones and the internet have surged, official figures have revealed.
There were 5,401 obscene publications and protected sexual material offences recorded by the police in the year to September, a 36% rise from 3,972 offences in the previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
This is largely due to an increase in offences related to the making and distribution of indecent photographs including those of children via the internet or through mobile technology, statisticians said.
In addition, the ONS said police claim to be giving more attention to child sexual exploitation and this is likely to have led to more of these offences being identified.
Pressure for police forces to tackle child sexual exploitation has increased in the wake of a number of scandals and high profile cases.
The emerging trend comes as rape and sexual offences recorded by the police continue to rise and remain at highest-ever levels.
There were 24,043 rapes and 48,934 other sexual offences recorded by police in the year to September 2014, the ONS said in its latest batch of quarterly crime statistics.
The rise was put down to improvement in recording as well as a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes.
The previous release revealed around 22,000 rapes in the year to June, which the ONS said then was the highest level on record.
Overall police recorded crime showed no change from the previous year, with 3.7 million offences recorded in the year ending September 2014.
Police-recorded figures also showed a rise in violent crime, with 699,800 recorded incidents of violence against the person, compared with 604,100 offences in the previous 12 months.
Until recently, police-recorded crime figures had been showing year-on-year reductions.
The stagnation in the overall figure comes after concerns were raised about the poor quality of the way police record crimes, prompting the UK Statistics Authority to remove the figures' official gold-standard status.
And the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), a separate measure reflecting experience of crime, revealed an 11% fall in crime to 7 million incidents against households and adults from 7.9 million in the previous year. This is the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981.
National Policing Lead for Crime Recording, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said: " We're pleased that the Crime Survey for England and Wales released today shows that the number of people experiencing crimes such as violence, criminal damage and burglary has continued to fall to its lowest level since the survey began in 1981.
" We are particularly reassured that this is combined with an increase in police recorded figures of violence and sexual offences. This is largely due to a renewed police focus on the quality of recording and a greater willingness from victims to come forward and report such crimes, past or present, with the confidence that they will be investigated fully.
"Our challenge is to deal effectively with the growing demand from complex public protection issues and cyber-crime - where the offences, and the outcomes of the police response, are not easily measured in the current system - while further improving recording and keeping traditional types of crime down. On a local and national level, chief constables are working to shape the police service so that it can meet that challenge."
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It's encouraging to see that crime is at its lowest level since records began in 1981. The police are doing a great job."
Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone said: " Police reform is working and crime is down by more than 20% under this Government, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.
"There are now 2.4 million fewer crimes per year than when the coalition Government took office, and crime has fallen 63% since its peak in 1995. This is good news for a safer England and Wales.
"In 2013, the Home Secretary commissioned Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to carry out an inspection of police crime recording in all forces, and expects chief constables and police and crime commissioners to act on its recommendations.
"We are already seeing the benefits of HMIC's scrutiny in more accurate crime recording. In addition, more victims of sexual offences and violent offences are coming forward - this is something we welcome.
"We have also transferred responsibility for crime statistics to the independent Office for National Statistics, introduced a new crime outcomes framework to provide greater transparency and abolished 'one-size-fits-all' performance targets. Under this Government, the police have one aim: to cut crime."
Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents tens of thousands of rank and file officers, said: "Officers have been doing an incredible job in the most difficult of circumstances to combat crime against a backdrop of cuts but tackling crime is only a part of what they do.
"It would be dangerous in the extreme for anyone to look at a fall in crime statistics and believe the cuts are having no effect on the resilience and effectiveness of their police force.
"Countering terrorists who seek to attack our way of life, managing sex offenders in the community, preventing child sexual exploitation, looking for missing persons, dealing with people with mental health problems, policing football matches, policing pubs and clubs, house to house inquiries and taking statements are just some of the key areas of police work not covered in the crime statistics.
"In addition, the statistics don't even cover all types of crime - so for instance drink-driving, driving without due care and attention, drunk and disorderly are not included.
"Protecting the public is a growing area of policing that is becoming a huge threat to public safety. Losing 16,000 police officers and 16,000 police staff members - equivalent to seven entire police forces - is having a dramatic effect on the service's ability to combat this growing problem."
Jack Dromey, shadow policing minister said: " The Government has broken its promise to protect front line police, with 16,000 officers having already lost their jobs yet demands on the police are growing and crime is changing.
"The police are struggling to cope with the sheer scale of criminal investigation into child sex exploitation and abuse and rapidly growing fraud and online crime.
"Yet the Home Secretary continues to insist that they have cut the police but they have also cut crime, despite the fact her assertions do not include all crime."