Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of rapes and the second highest number of sexual offences in a 12-month period, according to official figures.
Although overall crime levels fell in the year to June due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said recorded sexual offences had increased by eight percent. “Rape accounted for 37% of all sexual offences recorded by the police,” said the report published on Thursday. “The number of rape offences in the year ending June 2021 was the highest ever recorded annual figure to date (61,158 offences).”
The ONS said the record was driven by a significant increase between April and June, which saw 17,300 rape offences recorded, compared with a quarterly average of between 12,000 and 15,000.
The lowest charging rate of all crimes continues to be for rape, with just 1.4% of the 61,158 offences recorded by police in the year to June leading to prosecution.
In these cases, two in five (41.2%) were closed because the victim did not support further police action.
ONS statistics also found that victims could end up waiting for more than a year for court action to be taken against perpetrators, as the median average for such an allegation to lead to a charge or summons now standing at 489 days.
Dame Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, said the figures represented “nothing short of a collapse and faced with such damning statistics, it is hard not to wonder what the Crown Prosecution Service is doing". Describing the rates for rape prosecutions as “appalling”, she added: “We appear to be going backwards. “With ever more rape and sexual assault victims coming forward, and prosecution figures stuck in the doldrums, we face the very real risk of failing ever more rape victims, despite government pledges." The number of domestic abuse-related crimes also rose by six percent in the year, to almost 850,000 offences.
The rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens in March led to a national debate over women’s safety and how police and prosecutors respond to sexual violence.
Commenting on the figures, Nick Stripe, ONS head of crime statistics, said the increase may have been a result of "high-profile cases and campaigns in recent times".
"The rise could be due to an increase in victim reporting as lockdowns eased, an increase in the number of victims, or to an increase in victims' willingness to report incidents," he added.
Separately, newly released Home Office statistics reveal that just 6.5% of crimes in England and Wales resulted in a charge or summons in the 12 months to June - dropping to its lowest level since records began. This meant suspects were charged or ordered to be in court on 297,039 occasions over that period - 55,260 fewer than the previous 12 months when there were 352,299.
The figure for prosecutions has steadily declined over the years and is now less than half that recorded in June 2015 (14.8%). It stood at 7.4% in June 2020.
The most common reason (36.6%) for a case being closed continued to be due to no suspect being identified, while in more than a quarter of cases (25.9%) the victim did not support further action.
Lockdowns during the pandemic saw the number of cases progressing through the justice system slow while court buildings were closed. The Home Office previously said it was the responsibility of chief constables and police and crime commissioners to make sure criminal cases were being investigated properly.
It has said it is “providing the leadership needed to help end violence against women and girls".
All crimes should be reported to police. Extra help for those who have suffered a rape of sexual assault can be found here:
SARCs are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted.
Rape crisis - This National Organisation offers support and counselling for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)
Survivors UK – Male Rape and Sexual Abuse Support - This offers a range of support options to help you recover from your experience and put the past behind you.