Violent crime levels show 24% leap in England and Wales

Updated: 

Violent crime recorded by police has jumped by a quarter, with rises seen in offences involving the use of knives or firearms.

Forces in England and Wales saw an annual rise of 24% in violence against the person offences for the year ending in June.

However, statisticians said this is thought to largely reflect factors other than a rise in actual levels of violence.

Police recorded crimes involving the use of knives or sharp instruments increased by 9%, and those involving the use of firearms also rose, by 7%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Overall, the headline count based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated there were 6.4 million incidents of crime. 

The ONS said this was not significantly different compared with the previous year's estimate of 6.5 million.

Police recorded 4.6 million offences in the year ending June 2016, an annual rise of 7%.

Crime survey estimates showed no significant change in levels of violence compared with the previous year.

However, police logged just over one million offences of violence against the person - a 24% rise on the previous year, and the highest number recorded in a 12-month period since the introduction of the national crime recording standard in April 2002.

John Flatley, of the ONS, said: "Violent crime covers a wide spectrum, from minor assaults, harassment and abuse that result in no physical harm to the victim, through to incidents of wounding and murder.

"The latest figures present a complex picture, with the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimating similar levels of violent crime to that seen in recent years, but the number of offences recorded by the police increasing.

"We think the rise in the police figures is due to a combination of factors. First, the expansion of the police series to cover new harassment offences. Second, a greater proportion of incidents reported to the police being recorded as crimes.

"At the same time, the crime survey has shown a greater proportion of victims of violent crime reporting to the police. Finally, it appears there has been a small but genuine increase in some categories of violent crime."

In the latest year police recorded almost 30,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, up by 9% on the previous 12 months, although there has been a general downward trend over the longer term.

Offences involving firearms in the latest year rose by 7% to 5,244 compared with the previous year. This was said to be largely driven by an increase in offences involving imitation and other firearms such as BB guns and soft air weapons - and an increase in offences involving a handgun.

The ONS report said: "For both knife crime and firearm offences, there appears to be a mixed picture with some evidence to suggest there has been a small but genuine rise in some areas but also suggestions that it reflects general changes in recording processes."

There were 681 homicides recorded by police in the year to June. The ONS said the latest figures include, for the first time, the 96 cases of manslaughter which resulted from events in Hillsborough in 1989. These accounted for the majority of the increase compared with the last year.

Excluding the victims at Hillsborough the latest figures show a 3% year-on-year rise.

Victims experienced about 3.6 million fraud and 2 million computer misuse offences in the 12 months before interview.

The figures on the two categories are "experimental" but they are set to be included in the crime survey totals for the first time in the next quarterly report, meaning the headline rate could be almost double the level previously reported.

It was also revealed that sexual offences recorded by the police increased 14% on the previous year, while estimates from the crime survey showed the proportion of adults who were victims of sexual assaults in the previous year had not significantly changed.

Policing minister Brandon Lewis said: "Police reform is working and crime has fallen by well over a quarter since June 2010 with 420,000 fewer violent incidents a year, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.

"Families and communities are safer as a result.

"The Office for National Statistics is clear the rise in police-recorded offences largely reflects improved recording practices and a greater willingness of victims to come forward.

"We welcome those changes, just as we welcome the increases in convictions for sexual offences and violence against women they have brought about."