Reports of rape soar to record high, but number of charges falls to historic low

Rape offences reported to police have hit a record high in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder – as the proportion being solved have fallen to a historic low.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 61,158 rape offences were reported to police in the year to June 2021, a 9.6 per cent rise on the previous year and highest since records began in 2010.

It was fuelled by a 19 per cent increase in rapes recorded in April to June to 17,285, which followed the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard by rogue police officer Wayne Couzens.

The ONS said the figure could reflect the impact of “recent high-profile events” and campaigns to encourage people report sex assaults as well as a “potential increase in the number of victims”.

8 per cent rise in sex offences recorded by police

While nearly all other offences bar fraud and domestic abuse showed a fall because of Covid lockdowns, the number of sexual offences recorded by police rose by eight per cent to 164,763 in the year to June 2021.

It contrasts with separate Home Office figures which showed that just 1.4 per cent of rapes – just one in more than 70 – resulted in a charge or summons in the year to June 2021. This is the lowest on record and down from 1.5 per cent in the year to March 2021.

The data is likely to reinforce claims by victims’ groups that rape has been effectively decriminalised despite the surging numbers of complaints.

They blame lengthy court delays, intrusive digital probes into their personal lives and the trauma of giving evidence in a trial when they may have to face their alleged attacker.

Rape charge/summons rate (%) for police forces in England and Wales

The Home Office data showed 37.8 per cent of victims of sexual offences withdrew their support from the prosecution, the second highest rate after violence against the person crimes (44.1 per cent).

The number of domestic abuse offences rose by six per cent to 846,235 in the year ending June 2021. This included 687,328 violence against the person offences flagged as domestic abuse-related, a seven per cent increase.

Fraud offences also increased both in those recorded by police, up 20 per cent in the year to June 2021, and in those reported in the crime survey where fraud and computer misuse crime rose by 43 per cent.

The ONS linked the trends to lockdowns. “Fraud and computer misuse offences do not follow the lockdown-related pattern of reduced victimisation. Increases in these offences more than offset the reductions seen for other types of crime,” they said.

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