LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The number of rapes and sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales has soared to record levels, official figures showed on Thursday, a jump police attributed to improved recording and greater confidence among victims to report crimes.
There were 24,043 rapes recorded by the police in the 12 months to September 2014, a rise of 31 percent on the previous year, and 48,934 other sexual offences, an increase of 19 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Statisticians said the rises in rape and other sexual offences including sexual threats, unwanted touching and indecent exposure, were the largest annual increases since comparable records began in 2002.
Violent crime recorded by the police rose by 16 percent last year to nearly 700,000 offences, according to the figures, which are published every quarter.
"This is largely due to a renewed police focus on quality of recording and a greater willingness from victims to come forward and report such crimes, past or present, with the confidence that they will be investigated fully," said Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, national policing lead for crime recording.
Overall the number of crimes recorded by the police was stable at 3.7 million incidents, the ONS said.
The separate Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW), which estimates crime levels based on interviews with members of the public, said that overall crime fell by 11 percent to 7 million incidents, the lowest level since the study began in 1981.
Rape Crisis and End Violence Against Women were not immediately available for comment.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Tim Pearce