The number of rapes and other sex crimes reported to police are at their highest level since current records began, new figures show.
Sex offences reported to forces in England and Wales rose by 26,606 in the year to September 2015, an increase of 36% on the previous 12 months, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.
The ONS report said forces recorded 33,431 rapes and 66,178 other sexual offences, a total of 99,609 that was the highest since the National Crime Recording Standard was introduced 13 years ago. Recorded separately, rape reports rose 39% year-on-year and other sex crimes 35%.
The report noted: “It is thought rises in police recorded sexual offences are likely to be due to an improvement in recording by the police and an increase in the willingness of victims to come forward and report to the police.
“Previous increases in the number of sexual offences reported to the police were shown to have been related in part to a rise in the reporting of historical offences following ‘Operation Yewtree’, which began in 2012.
Analysis of records from the Home Office Data Hub indicates that both current and historical offences continued to rise in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. However, the major volume contribution to this increase comes from current offences.
As well as sexual offences, police forces recorded a 4% increase in gun crimes, the first time firearms offences have risen since 2008. Knife crimes also rose by 9%.
Overall, crime reported to police last year increased by 6% over 2014 to 4.3 million offences, with the ONS attributing it to a greater proportion of reports of crime being recorded in the last year, following improved compliance with national recording standards by police forces.
The rise in total recorded crime is the biggest year-on-year jump since 2001-2002, statistics show. The rate of sexual offences has doubled in the past year, from one in every 1,000 people to two in every 1,000.
London’s Metropolitan Police accounted for almost a quarter of the increase in knife crime offences. There was also rise of more than a quarter (26%) in recorded rapes involving a knife or sharp instrument, while possession of a knife or sharp instrument rose by 15%.
Banking and card fraud was up 8% year on year, while total fraud incidents were up 5%. The fraud rate per 1,000 people has crept up slightly, from 10 to 11.
Better recording of crimes was also thought to have affected reporting of violent crimes. The ONS said offences of violence against the person rose by 185,666 to 885,440, up 27% over the year previously.
At the same time the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed no significant change compared with the previous year’s survey.
Jack Dromey, Labour’s shadow police minister, said: “The Tories have slashed police officers by 17,000 and broke their promise to the public to protect frontline officer numbers. Now we see the biggest increase in recorded crime in a decade.
The first duty of any Government is the safety and security of our citizens. By overseeing the sharpest decline in police numbers anywhere in the EU, the Tories are letting the British people down.
Police Minister Mike Penning said: We continue to see a rise in police recording of violent and sexual crimes. The Office for National Statistics is clear that this rise reflects improvements in recording practice and a willingness of victims to come forward. this is something we welcome. We are also providing much greater transparency on what happens to crimes once they have been reported to the police.
The Government has made reducing violence, including knife crime, a priority and continues to work closely with the police and other organisations to tackle the drivers of these crimes.