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Latest crime figures show 14% increase in sexual offences reported to police

24 Jan 2019

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its latest data on crime in England and Wales, which cover the year ending September 2018.

The figures confirm that sexual offences reported to the police are still on the increase, continuing a trend that has lasted over four years.

The statistics reveal reported rapes increased by 16% over the year, and sexual assaults by 13%. This amounts to an overall 14% increase in police-recorded sexual offences.

The ONS suggests this increase is most likely a result of both better recording practices on the part of many police forces, which had previously been found inadequate by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), and increased willingness of victims and survivors of these offences to report, rather than a rise in the number of sexual offences being perpetrated. The latest Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW) figures, to March 2018, reflected a 0.7% rise in sexual offences taking place.

Of the ONS report, Katie Russell, for Rape Crisis England & Wales, said:

"We know through our own frontline work with victims and survivors, and successive independent research studies, that sexual offences are historically and chronically under-reported.

The Government's own estimates are that still only around 17% of those subjected to these serious, traumatic crimes currently choose to report to the police.

It can therefore be seen as positive that more victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, rape and all forms of sexual violence are gradually feeling confident to pursue the criminal justice to which they're entitled. It's certainly a step in the right direction that previously inadequate police recording practices around sexual offences are steadily improving at many forces.

The increase in reporting to the police has been mirrored in recent years by the unprecedented and increasing need and demand for our specialist Rape Crisis services.

In the year March 2017-18, our member Rape Crisis Centres provided over 650,000 sessions of specialist support, including advocacy and counselling, to 78,461 individual victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse - an increase of 44% and 17% respectively on the previous year.

Yet despite the huge numbers of victims and survivors both reporting to the police and seeking specialist support, the criminal justice system continues to fail them, and the services designed and proven to support their recovery and rights continue to be woefully underfunded. Rates of charging, prosecution and conviction for sexual offences are all falling, while many Rape Crisis Centres are forced to operate waiting lists for their life-saving services and many areas still don't even have a Rape Crisis Centre.

The time for both a complete review and overhaul of the criminal justice system in relation to sexual violence and abuse, and the adequate and sustainable funding of specialist services for victims and survivors, is long overdue. The urgency of this situation can't be overstated."