It is difficult to obtain reliable information on the volume of sexual offences as it is known that a high proportion of offences are not reported to the police. Also, changes in recorded figures may reflect changes in reporting or recording rates rather than actual victimisation. For these reasons, caution should be used when interpreting trends in these offences.
How much have sexual offences increased?
The latest police recorded crime figures showed an increase of 9% in all sexual offences for the year ending June 2013 compared with the previous year (up from 51,252 to 55,812). Sexual offences includes rape and other sexual offences, both of which also increased by 9%.
Why have sexual offences increased?
There is evidence to suggest that these increases are partly a result of the Operation Yewtree investigation, initiated in October 2012 and connected to the Jimmy Savile inquiry. Whilst some of these increases will be a direct consequence of the crimes reported as part of Operation Yewtree there is also evidence to suggest that there has been a wider “Yewtree effect” which has led to an increased willingness on the part of the victims to come forward and report historical sexual offences that are not directly connected to Yewtree. Additionally the publicity surrounding Operation Yewtree may have also encouraged more victims to come forward and report more recent abuse cases.
How have ‘historical’ sexual offences affected the rise?
ONS has also considered recorded crime data sent by some police forces (43 in England and Wales) to the Home Office Data Hub; this partial picture shows when an offence took place and when it was recorded. The analysis suggests that the increase in sexual offences in the last year was driven by a rise in both the number of ‘historical’ sexual offences and in the number of 'current' sexual offences reported. However, this data is only able to provide a partial and provisional picture, for instance it excludes the Metropolitan Police Service, which accounts for nearly a fifth of all sexual offences recorded by the police in the year to June 2013.
This data showed that the number of sexual offences recorded by the police that occurred more than 20 years ago doubled. However, as this category accounted for around a tenth of all sexual offences, this was not the only driver for the overall increase. There was also an increase of 5% in the number of sexual offences recorded by the police that had taken place in the same 12 month period as the offence was recorded. This category accounts for around two thirds of the total of sexual offences. The increase in reporting of sexual offences to the police is also mirrored by an increase in the number of serious sexual abuse incidents reported to the NSPCC helpline.
Where can I find out more about sexual offences?
For more information see ‘An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales’ or ‘Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2011/12’. Figures for the current year (2012/13) will be available in the next ‘Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual offences’ release which is due to be published in February 2014.