Crime hits 20-year high but charges fall to record low, 'worrying' stats show

22 July 2022, 00:58 | Updated: 22 July 2022, 06:38

Crime figures have reached a new high, but Home Office stats show charges are at a record low
Crime figures have reached a new high, but Home Office stats show charges are at a record low. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of crimes in 20 years - but charges have fallen to a record low.

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A total of 6.3 million crimes were recorded in the year to March 2022 - 4 per cent higher than the previous all-time high of 6.1 million in 2019/20.

It is also up 16 per cent on 2020/21, when crime levels were affected by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Despite the high levels, only around 5 per cent of alleged crimes result in someone being charged within a year of it being reported.

Labour said that the figures showed that hundreds of thousands of criminals were getting away with "appalling crimes".

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The crime figures, which have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show knife crime, theft and domestic abuse all increased in the 12 months to March.

Knife crime rose by 10 per cent to 49,027 offences in the year to March - though this is below the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20, which saw 55,078 offences.

Various types of police-recorded crime are now at their highest level since current records began in 2002/03, including the number of rape offences, all sexual offences, stalking and harassment offences, and all violence against the person offences.

Domestic abused-related offences were also up 8 per cent on 2020/21 and up 12 per cent on the pre-pandemic year of 2019/20.

According to a Freedom of Information request, a total of 22,753 - seven out of 10 of its officers - did not arrest a suspect from April 1 2021 to March 31 this year. 

During the same period 30,265 officers - 93.1% of Scotland Yard's force - had less than five arrests, the Sun revealed.

However some of this increase may reflect improvements seen in reporting over the last few years.

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Responding to the figures, Diana Fawcett, chief executive at the charity Victim Support, said: "Record rises in crime levels are always worrying - behind these statistics are real people, and being a victim of any crime can have a devastating and long lasting impact.

"Regardless of the reason for the increase, this huge rise in recorded crime coincides with victims across the country facing agonisingly long waits for trial.

"With the highest number of cases for 20 years coming into the criminal justice system, we need urgent action to address the backlog of cases, to ensure that those who've had the courage to report a crime get the justice they deserve."

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Billy Gazard of the ONS said: "Sexual offences recorded by the police were at the highest level recorded within a 12-month period in the year ending March 2022, a 32 per cent increase from the previous year.

"These changes may reflect a number of factors including the impact of high-profile cases and campaigns on victims' willingness to report incidents."

The number of sex offences recorded by forces in England and Wales has more than doubled in the past seven years, and rape offences have nearly doubled in the past six years.

While theft offences jumped by 15 per cent to 1.5 million in 2021/22, this is still below pre-pandemic levels, when the number topped two million.

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Many subcategories of theft saw an increase in the latest figures, though this follows a sharp drop in 2020/21 when levels were affected by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Theft from the person was up 77 per cent in the year to March, theft of a motor vehicle was up 22 per cent and shoplifting rose 21 per cent.

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Separate figures published on Thursday by the Home Office show that just 5.6 per cent of offences in England and Wales in 2021/22 - around one in 18 - resulted in a charge and/or summons, down from 7.1 per cent, or one in 14, in 2020/21.

The charge rate has been on a downwards trend for several years and now stands at around a third of the level in 2014/15, when it was 15.5 per cent.

The proportion of offences that had not been assigned an outcome by police forces at the time of reporting rose from 7.8 per cent in 2020/21 to 11.7 per cent in 2021/22.

The figure stood at 7.3 per cent in 2014/15.

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The Home Office said these trends "are likely to reflect, in part, improved crime recording processes as well as a more complex crime caseload being dealt with by the police, with the rise in violence against the person and sexual offences".

Data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) shows there were 1,733 rape convictions in England and Wales in 2021/22, more than the last two years.

The conviction rate for rape cases stood at 68.3 per cent in the year to March 2022, down from 71.2 per cent in 2020/21.

The number of rape suspects charged increased by 14 per cent since 2021/21.

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Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, and Chief Constable Sarah Crew, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for rape and adult sexual offences, said: "Rape is a devastating offence and we are committed to improving every aspect of how these life-changing crimes are dealt with.

"Close joint working from the very start of an investigation means we can build the best possible cases more quickly.

"With police going to the CPS earlier in the process and more often, the rise in charging decisions will lead to more trials and more convictions.

"Early advice in these cases has been key in helping us use our joint resources more effectively and narrow the gap between the number of offences reported to the police and cases going to court."