Rape offences recorded by police increase to new annual high
Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of rapes and sexual offences in a 12-month period, figures show.
There were 63,136 rapes recorded in the year to September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), up 13 per cent from the previous period (56,119).
This was the highest recorded annual figure to date and included 17,419 offences between July and September – the highest quarterly figure.
The highest number of sexual offences was also recorded in the 12 months to September (170,973), a 12 per cent increase compared to 152,620 in the same period the previous year. This is driven by “noticeable increases since April 2021”, the ONS said.
Rape accounted for 37 per cent of all sexual offences recorded by police.
The ONS said the latest figures may reflect a “number of factors”, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”, and it urged caution when interpreting the data.
The figures cover the months following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March.
The 33-year-old was attacked and killed by Metropolitan Police Service officer Wayne Couzens, prompting a national debate about sexual violence, the safety of women and the response from government, police and prosecutors.
The ONS added: “The overall trend is also currently difficult to disentangle from the impact of lockdowns. Offences recorded by the police dropped noticeably during the spring 2020 lockdown before rebounding to previous levels in the July to September 2020 quarter.
“The winter 2020 to 2021 lockdowns saw a smaller reduction in the number of sexual offences recorded by the police but a greater level of increase in these offences in the subsequent quarters.”
Responding to the statistics, the Victim’s Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “There is no escaping the numbers: record highs in reported rapes and sexual assaults and charging rates so low as to be barely discernible. This is of grave concern and a depressingly familiar story.
“Much as we hope each year to finally witness the green shoots of a recovery, we are once again faced with the crushing reality that the criminal justice system is continuing to fail rape victims in ever-increasing numbers.
“Alarming statistics today reveal that 41 per cent of rape victims are withdrawing their support for action. Worse still, almost a third (30 per cent) are backing out within the first three months of the offence being recorded. For so many victims to have built up the immense courage to report only to withdraw within a matter of weeks is deeply worrying and suggests the situation is worsening, some 7 months after the government’s Rape Review promised to set things straight.
“I remain very concerned that few victims will stay the course. Rape victims are being subjected to endless, endemic delays. Of the dismally few who secure a charging decision in their case, almost a quarter (24 per cent) face delays of more than a year. We know that the stress and uncertainty is driving many to drop their claims altogether.
“The nationwide roll-out of pre-recorded evidence and cross-examination in rape cases (Section 28) has been promised – and it will make a difference. But it must now be implemented in weeks and months, not years.”