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Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12

Key Points:

Violent and sexual crime covers a range of offence types. For example, violence spans minor assaults, such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious assault and murder. Sexual assault covers offences from indecent exposure to rape. In half of incidents identified by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (50%) and offences recorded by the police (56%), the violence resulted in no physical injury to the victim.

The 2011/12 CSEW shows that there were 2.1 million violent incidents in England and Wales with 3% of adults victimised. The number of violent incidents has halved from its peak in 1995 when the survey estimated over 4.2 million violent incidents.

Focusing on the most serious violence, the number of homicides currently recorded by the police has increased from 1961 to 2002/03, and shown a generally downward trend since. The number currently recorded for 2011/12 (540) is the lowest since 1989 (521).

Offences involving the use of firearms peaked later than overall violent crime with 24,094 offences being recorded by the police in 2003/04. Since then the number of such offences has fallen by 60% to 9,555 recorded offences in 2011/12. The current 16% fall between 2010/11 and 2011/12 is the eighth consecutive annual decrease in firearm offences.

With regard to sexual and domestic violence, the 2011/12 survey showed there were 536,000 victims of sexual assault in the last year and 2.0 million of domestic abuse. Although the estimated levels of domestic abuse experienced in the last year were lower than those in the 2004/05 CSEW (the baseline for this measure) there has been no statistically significant change since 2008/09. Sexual assault in the last year has shown no statistically significant change over this time period.

The CSEW showed that young men were most likely to be the victims of violence. The profile of victims of violent and sexual violence varied according to the type of offence. In 2011/12, as in previous years, more than two-thirds of homicide victims (68%) were male. In contrast, women were more likely to be a victim of domestic abuse. Some 7% of women and 5% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 800,000 male victims. Similarly, the survey found that young women were much more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last year.

The relationship between victims and perpetrators also differed by gender. For example, homicides against men were most likely to be committed by a friend or acquaintance (39%), whilst homicides against women were most likely to be committed by a partner or ex-partner, (51%).