UK

Homicide numbers at 38-year low but sex offences up 32%

Two police officers Image copyright PA

The number of murder and manslaughter cases in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level for 38 years, police figures suggest.

Police recorded 515 homicides last year, 37 fewer than in 2013 and the smallest number since 1977.

The number of sexual offences recorded in 2014 rose by 32% to 80,262.

Meanwhile, crime survey results suggest overall crime fell by 7% to 6.9 million incidents - the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981.

The figures, all released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show the number of offences recorded by police rose by 2% to 3.8 million.

The ONS said better methods meant more crimes reported to police were now officially recorded.

The figure for homicide - which includes the crimes of murder, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and infanticide - was the lowest since 1977, when 484 were recorded.

Analysis

Image copyright PA

By Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent

The 2% rise in police recorded crime, the first increase for a decade, doesn't mean crime is really up.

It's more likely to reflect changes in the way forces log offences, after inspectors found a fifth of crimes weren't being recorded.

Sexual offences and violent crime showed the greatest levels of under-recording, so no surprise perhaps that these are now the two categories showing large increases.

To get an accurate gauge of crime trends, look at the homicide figures, which are not subject to change or manipulation

Look also at Cardiff University's latest study of people attending A&E units due to violent injuries - down 10% year-on-year.

And look at the well-respected Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Crime is down, even though the police are recording more offences.

"Over the past decade the volume of homicides has decreased while the population of England and Wales has continued to grow," the ONS said.

It said the rise in the number of recorded sexual offences - to the highest figure since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in 2002-03 - was "thought to reflect" better recording and "greater willingness of victims to come forward".

The sexual offences included 26,703 rapes - an increase of 40% on 2013.

The ONS said figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales - which asks people about crime they have experienced and includes offences not reported to police - showed a recent "fall in sexual assault victimisation rates".

Crime statistics for Scotland and Northern Ireland are published at different times from those in England and Wales.

The most recent Scottish figures show police recorded 61 homicides in 2013-14, down two compared to the previous 12 months. Results of the 2014-15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey have not yet been published.

The 2013-14 Northern Ireland Crime Survey found 10% of households (based on adult occupants) had been victims of at least one crime during the 12 months prior to interview - the lowest rate since the measure was first used in 1998.

Police recorded 19 homicides in Northern Ireland in the 12 months up to September 2014 - the same number as in the previous 12 months.