UK

Injuries from violence in England and Wales 'at new low'

Accident and Emergency sign Image copyright PA
Image caption The number of victims of violence fell by 10% in 2014 compared with the previous year

The number of violence-related injuries in England and Wales is at its lowest level for at least 15 years, an annual study suggests.

Cardiff University's survey of 117 hospital units showed about 211,000 victims of violence went to hospital in 2014 - 10% fewer than in 2013.

It is the lowest figure since the study of accident and emergency and minor injury units began in 2001.

Researchers say a reduction in binge drinking has helped cut violence.

However, they warn this could change if alcohol becomes more affordable again.

The results of the study mirror the long-term fall in violence measured by the official crime survey of England and Wales.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, director of the violence research group at Cardiff University, and lead author of the study, said situational factors such as better street lighting and the use of plastic glasses in pubs had also contributed to the reduction in violence.

'Welcome news'

"These substantial year-on-year decreases in serious violence are welcome news for citizens and communities across England and Wales," he said.

"Moreover, costs imposed on health services and the criminal justice system by violence have been substantially reduced along with burdens on stretched emergency departments."

But he stressed alcohol-related violence remained a problem.

"As we emerge from the economic downturn we must ensure that the affordability of alcohol does not increase," he said.

"Over 200,000 people across England and Wales going to emergency departments with injuries caused by violence are still far too many."


Analysis

By Danny Shaw, home affairs correspondent

The annual Cardiff University crime survey is a well-respected piece of research which provides confirmation that violent crime is in long-term decline.

There are flaws in its approach: the study doesn't include victims of violence who don't go to hospital, so those who live far from A&E units or mistrust doctors may be under-represented.

But the findings, which are largely positive, present a challenge for the next government - how to maintain the fall.

The researchers reckon that alcohol plays a part in 70% of the hospital cases they have recorded, so they want renewed action to combat the problem of cheap booze.

However, violence is falling in Western countries which don't have the same drinking culture, suggesting that other factors are at play that are yet to be fully understood.


The biggest decline in those seeking treatment for injuries was among children and adolescents.

Researchers say that could be due to improved safeguarding measures and because fewer children are gathering on the streets.

The NSPCC said the fall in children attending A&E due to violence related injuries was "encouraging".

"These improvements are most welcome and in stark contrast to other forms of abuse - such as neglect or emotional abuse - which do not appear to have declined in recent years," a spokesman said.

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