Knife crime at record high as overall charge rate falls

Labour says decline in suspects being charged or summonsed is ‘indictment’ of Tory cuts

The proportion of recorded crimes in England and Wales that resulted in a suspect being charged or summonsed to court has fallen again, figures reveal, as knife crime surges to a record high.

In the year to March 2019, 7.8% of all recorded offences resulted in a charge or a summons, against 9.1% the previous year, figures on crime outcomes from the Home Office show.

It continues a decline since the “crime outcomes” framework was introduced by the Home Office in March 2015 – when 15% of recorded crimes resulted in a charge or summons.

Police forces closed almost half (44%) of offences with no suspect being identified, a similar proportion to last year, the figures showed.

Guardian graphic.

The figures were released after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its quarterly crime statistics, revealing a 7% rise in offences involving knives or sharp instruments in the year ending September to 44,771 offences, the highest on record. However, there was no change in the number of overall violent offences.

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said: “This is a damning indictment of 10 years of Tory neglect of policing and the effect of cuts. The increase in the number of knife crime offences leaves them at an all-time high, and charge rates are at a low.

“It is far from clear that the government will meet its own target for recruiting extra officers. It is certain they will not address some of the underlying causes of crime because they don’t even intend to.

“This government cannot ensure the safety of our citizens is given the correct priority unless it changes course dramatically.”

The drop in charges and summonses and rising knife crime come amid dwindling police resources. Boris Johnson has pledged to restore police numbers to levels seen before the Conservative party ushered in nine years of austerity.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for crime, Ch Con Andy Cooke, said: “The further fall in charging rates is concerning, but not surprising. In the past decade, we’ve dealt with more complex crimes and increasing demand while our resources fell. Changes to crime recording mean we now record more crimes that have no realistic prospect of conviction, which also affects the statistics.

“With 20,000 new police officers coming in the next three years we will be more proactive and target persistent criminals who inflict misery on our communities.”

Guardian graphic.

The Home Office figures also revealed a drop in the number and proportion of offences resolved by out-of-court resolutions, while the proportion of offences that were closed as a result of “evidential difficulties” increased from 29% to 32%.

The ONS’s Crime Survey of England and Wales, which measures prevalence of crime, showed there were no statistically significant changes in total crime.

Murder and manslaughter was down 6%, burglary was down 4% and there was no change in levels of violence or theft, while there were increases in robbery, vehicle offences and fraud.

Kit Malthouse, the minister for policing, crime and the fire service, said: “Overall, the numbers are extremely concerning. While there has been some reduction in murder and the crime survey shows a flat picture, violent crime is still too high.

“We are throwing everything we have got at this issue, recruiting 20,000 more officers and taking a smarter, more assertive approach to fighting crime. We all have to work together to win this fight and we won’t stop until we do.”


Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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