No Suspects Charged in 91% of Crimes
New data indicates that 91% of crimes in England and Wales are going unpunished. Only 9% of crimes recorded in the twelve months to March resulted in suspects being charged or summonsed, according to figures published by the government.
Just 443,000 crimes out of 4.6m offences reported led to a charge or summons, constituting the lowest crime detection rate in three years. The statistics from the Home Office show that nearly half of all cases (48%) over the twelve-month period were closed by police, because no suspect could be identified. In one in five instances meanwhile, the case went unresolved because the victim of the crime did not support action – usually meaning that they did not want to take the case through the courts.
Victim reluctance to have a case continued into the courts was the reason for unresolved investigations in 34% of rape cases. 95% of all sexual offences – and 97% of rape cases – ended with no charges being made.
Crime rate up by 11% as ONS notes ‘stabilising’ in long-term declining trend
The revelations about shortfalls in crime detection come as the rate of crime across the UK continues to rise.
The Office for National Statistics reported an 11% increase in crimes recorded by the police between March 2017 and March 2018. In addition, serious crimes in particular have surged, with sexual offences up 24% from last year and the number of recorded homicides increasing for the fourth year running, up 12%. Knife crimes increased by 16% and gun offences were also up.
Such cases weigh particularly heavily on the police force’s growing case load due to their complexity, with rape investigations taking an average of 129 days to resolve, compared with just 2 days for instances of theft or criminal damage.
The ONS surmised that the figures represented a “stabilising” of crime figures, after “decades” of decline in crime.
Spokesperson Caroline Youell said that the figures pointed to a “fairly stable” picture of crime rates overall, admitting “increases in some lower-volume ‘high-harm offences'” but adding that it was “too early to say if this is a change to the long-term declining trend.”
However, others say that the combination of less successful detection and rising crime rates represents a real danger for the nation’s criminal justice system.
Police Federation official Che Donald stated that law enforcement was “sleepwalking into a nightmare,” adding that the nation’s policing performance was “on the critical list.”
Justice Secretary seeks longer prison sentences to tackle re-offending
Some, including the police, blame the lack of resolved crimes on cuts to the police force, with the number of police officers falling to its lowest level in decades last year. The Inspectorate of Constabulary points to a national shortage in detectives and the continuing decline of police officers since 2010 as reasons for the high number of criminal offences going undetected.
Justice Secretary David Gauke however is set to focus not on boosting police numbers but on improvements to the prison system, focusing on tackling the levels of re-offending.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Gauke stated that those successfully convicted of crimes require a “hope[ful]”, rehabilitative structure to their time in prison, to cut down on instances of re-offenders. Part of this policy would involve a move towards longer sentences, with Mr Gauke calling the prevalence of short sentences “disruptive for the offenders…and disruptive to prisons.”
At present, 60% of those who serve shorter sentences go on to re-offend.
Prison reform group the Howard League for Penal Reform called Mr Gauke’s statement “politically brave but absolutely right,” adding that recent policies “starving prisons of resources” have “fed more crime and led to record levels of violence.”
Andrew Neilson, of the campaign group, stated: “Bold but sensible steps to ease pressure on prisons will make people safer, not only in the jails themselves but also in the community.”
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