Categories

AOAV: all our reportsBritish militarism examinedGunsImpact on civilians

England and Wales data on Homicide, Domestic Violence, Sexual Offences, and Child Abuse examined

In the article below, Action on Armed Violence sets to map out a decade of homicide, domestic violence, sexual offences and child abuse in England and Wales with an eye towards tracking harm and highlighting perhaps under-reported instances of harm. We drew upon a range of data sources including the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), as well as police-recorded crime data (PRC) to explore trends and patterns in such violence, with a focus on age, ethnicity, and gender.

It must be noted that both CPS and PRC data must be approached with caution since they are not designated national statistics. Where findings draw upon such data, this is noted using (CPS) or (PRC), with the exception of figures sourced from the Home Office Homicide Index which, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, meet requirements to be designated national statistics.  We did not look at data from Scotland or Northern Ireland as this is not always collated and presented in the same format as England & Wales, and might have led to confusion.

Our findings below are not meant to offer insight into why such patterns emerge, but to rather highlight that the data points to areas of concern in certain areas.  Quality research has to start, first, with quality data and this is an attempt both to reveal gaps in the data and areas where more research – qualitative and quantitative is required – to provide a deeper understanding as to why the data suggests concern in some areas and not others.

Homicide, domestic abuse, and sexual offences
Whilst perhaps unsurprising, statistics on the ethnic makeup of homicide victims are nonetheless of concern. Of 6,375 recorded homicides between April 2009 and March 2020, 12.6% (800) of victims were Black. Black people constitute 3.3% of England and Wales’ overall population (as per 2011 census).[1]

Similarly concerning is the age distribution of Black victims. Of this 800 total, 43.8% (350) were aged just 16-24, in comparison to 13.7% (663) of White homicide victims. Whilst 40% (1,937) of the latter were over the age of 45, only 13.3% (106) of Black people killed were above this age. Likewise, of 503 Asian (Indian sub-continent) victims, 23.9% (120) were 16-24 years old.

From 37.7% of homicides being young Black victims in 2009-2010, this ratio of young adult death impacting Black youths, compared to non-Black youths, increased to 48.6% of the total in the 16-24 age range in 2019-2020.[2]

ONS data from England and Wales likewise shows that 16–24-year-olds are also at highest risk for sexual assault. According to combined data from April 2017 to March 2020, 12.9% of women aged 16-19 and 10.5% aged 20-24 had survived actual or attempted sexual assault during the previous year, with Black women (4.4%) and those of Mixed ethnicity (5.4%) most likely to report such offences.

In particular, female respondents of Black (4.3%) and Mixed ethnicity (5.4%) had experienced elevated rates of indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching within the previous reported year. White women, meanwhile, were associated with slightly proportionally higher levels of attempted and actual rape or penetrative assault (0.8%) than any other ethnic group.

This pattern was repeated in male statistics, with 1.0% of Black male respondents and 1.7% of Mixed ethnicity males suffering sexual assault within the past year, compared to 0.9% of White males and 0.6% Asian.[3]

Considering homicide rates in terms of ethnicity, the Home Office Homicide Index shows that, between 2017 and 2020, most killings involving a victim and perpetrator of different ethnicity resulted in a White suspect being convicted.

This included 14.5% (18) of homicides with Black victims and 22.9% (17) for those of Asian ethnicity. Perhaps testifying to geospatial separation of ethnic groups or partialities in the criminal justice system, most homicides were, however, attributed to a killer of the same ethnicity as their victim.

512 of 611 homicides of White victims, or 83.8%, resulted in conviction of a White perpetrator. Similarly, a Black suspect was found guilty in 79.8% (99) of Black victims’ deaths, as was an Asian (Indian sub-continent) person in 58.1% (43) of homicides with an Asian victim.[4]

What open access statistics clearly demonstrate is that men comprise the vast majority both suspected of and convicted for violent offences. Between 2016 and 2019, 86.0% (307) of suspects in domestic homicides and 97.6% (881) in non-domestic were male, as were 91.6% (4,538) of 4,953 persons convicted of homicide during the past decade (PRC), and 98.5% of suspects in rape prosecutions across 2011-2018 (CPS).[5]

Men also represented 92.0% (474,822) of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions from 2014 to 2020 (CPS), as well as 96.0% (263) of those proceeded against for domestic killings with female victims and 53.0% (44) with male victims. For homicides outside of the household, these figures stood at 93.2% (109) and 97.6% (881) respectively (PRC).[6]

The majority of men convicted in homicide cases are younger than 35 years of age. Across the period 2009-2020, 36.7% (1,666) were 16-24 and a further 27.4% (1,245) were between 25 and 34 years. The far smaller number of female offenders exhibited a more even dispersal across different age groups, with 24.5% (100) aged 16-24, 27.6% (113) 25-34, and 25.4% (104) 35-44 (PRC).[7]

Male perpetrators of attempted or actual rape and penetrative assault were also typically 20-39-years-old. Almost two thirds, 64.9%, of incidents in combined data for 2016-2017 and 2019-2020 concerned an offender within this range, including 54.7% of attacks suffered by males.

Importantly, the age of intended victim in such crimes often predicts that of attacker, with most respondents identifying a perpetrator of similar age to themselves at the time of the attack. Despite 50.1% of 16-19-year-old victims citing a male attacker of 20-39, 41.3% reported a male of 16-19, a category with only a four-year span. Similarly, 85.2% of survivors aged 20-24 and 79.8% between 25 and 34 identified a male attacker of 20-39, whilst 64.9% of 45-54 years cited a male aged 40-59.[8]

Children, sexual abuse and violence
As the ONS concedes, no official source provides information on the current prevalence of childhood abuse, with the ‘best available indicator’ – the Crime Survey for England and Wales – a known underestimate in its exclusion of crimes against 16 and 17-year-olds. Compiling data from various sources across the government and voluntary sectors, the 2020 release ‘Child abuse in England and Wales’ is the organisation’s first attempt to address a poorly understood topic associated with incomplete statistics.[9]

Despite these gaps, the available data nonetheless presents a concerning picture as to the prevalence of abuses suffered by children, including psychological, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as witnessing domestic violence or household abuse. The 2018-2019 CSEW reveals that 20.7% of 24,899 adult respondents cited some form of abuse prior to 16, including 24.8% of women and 16.5% of men.[10]

In terms of sexual abuse, data from 24 forces across England and Wales offers the difficult insight that 40.7% of sexual offences against females and 60.2% against males in 2019-2020 involved victims under 16 years of age (PRC).[11]

Other long-term effects notwithstanding, estimates produced using the 2015-2016 CSEW establish a connection between exposure to childhood abuse (under 16) and violence suffered as an adult, or at least recognition of and willingness to report such experiences. 51% of 16-59-year-olds, including 57% of females, who underwent some form of abuse as children also cited domestic abuse after 16, compared with 13% with no such childhood history.[12]

This pattern was particularly clear with regards sexual assault. 31% of all adults and 43% of females surveyed who had suffered some form of childhood abuse also reported sexual assault (including attempts) after 16, versus 7.0% for adults without such experiences as children. Of those suffering actual or attempted rape or penetrative assault before 16, 67% had undergone domestic abuse in later life whilst a further 53.0% cited sexual assault.[13]

Early exposure to abuse by a family member also appears to increase the probability of suffering partner violence as an adult, with over one third (36%) of survivors experiencing partner abuse after 16, whilst 14% of those citing partner abuse had no childhood exposure to family abuse.[14]

The greater the number of types of child abuse a survivor had experienced, the higher their likelihood of reporting abuse in adulthood. 77% of respondents who had suffered four forms of abuse had experienced domestic abuse after 16, contrasting with 40% who had suffered one type.[15]

Adding to this picture, 40.9% of 254 respondents confirmed that children had been present in the household during the most recent instance of partner abuse. 20.5% of this 254 total confirmed that children had seen or heard the events concerned.[16]

Data published in the annual CPS report ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ details that 89.3% (83,720) of defendants in child abuse flagged cases between 2009 and 2019 were male. 74.5% (69,961) were 25+ whilst 7.4% (6,901) were younger than 18 (CPS).[17]

Males also made up almost two thirds, 65.6% (202), of persons accused of child homicide. Defendants were, again, most likely to be 25+ (65.3%, 196), with 18-24-year-olds here representing 31.7% (95) of the total. For child offences against the person, males comprised 73.9% (20,567) of defendants (CPS).[18]

Almost all defendants (98.3%, 51,279) in child sexual offence flagged cases were, again, male. 18-24-year-olds were almost half as likely to be indicted in such cases compared to child murder at 16.3% (8,440), but under 18s were more than twice as likely at 7.1% (3,696). Over three quarters, 76.6% (36,695) of defendants were 25+ (CPS).[19]

Excluding the 20.5% of cases where defendant ethnicity was not recorded, the vast majority in such cases were White (88.4%, 36,704) whilst Asian defendants were under-represented relative to population size at 5.5% (2,303) (CPS). Asian persons likewise made up only 4.4% (11) of defendants in child homicide cases from 2009 to 2019 (CPS).[20]

Whilst CPS statistics show Black suspects as marginally over-represented as defendants in child sexual abuse cases at 4.1% (1701), the MoJ’s Criminal Justice Statistics Quarterly demonstrates that Black persons made up only 2.7% (695) of those found guilty in such cases between 2014 and 2018. Persons of Asian ethnicity were also under-represented at 3.8% (973) of those convicted, whilst White suspects comprised 91.6% (23,733) of the total found guilty. Importantly, it is the MoJ data that is designated as national statistics.[21]

Of the 2,977 found guilty of child rape offences between 2014 and 2018, the largest proportion (51.7%, 1,538) were charged with rape of a female aged 13-15. 34.4% (1,025) involved a female victim under 13, whilst 9.6% (285) were convicted for rape of a male within this same age range.

Whilst the conviction ratio for child sexual abuse offences averaged 76.8% from 2014 to 2018 and saw consistent increase year-on-year, that for child rape stood at just 44.7%, a figure which, prior to January 2018, averaged just 40.9%.[22]

Conclusion
Given their reliance upon victim self-reporting, the incidence of ‘hidden’ crimes such as domestic abuse, child abuse, and sexual offences in England and Wales is almost certainly under-documented and therefore under-appreciated. Effective monitoring and data gathering methods are vital to developing policies which might prevent such crimes, in part by assuring an equitable criminal justice system which enables and encourages survivors to speak out.

As the ONS acknowledges of child abuse, the available data is produced independently by various organisations, with each providing ‘only a partial picture’. Analyses based upon a range of indicators from different sources such as the 2020 release ‘Child Abuse in England and Wales’ are therefore a step in the right direction to better understanding ‘hidden’ forms of crime.[23]

Another consideration is the methodology behind self-reporting surveys where the bases for ‘Black’, ‘Asian’, ‘Mixed’, and ‘Other ethnic group’ respondents seem sometimes to be under-representative of population size.

In order to adequately address violent crime, policymakers and advocacy groups must engage with perpetrators’ narratives as well as their broader social contexts, again requiring a sufficient breadth and depth of publicly accessible data. Less commonly detailed in public datasets, offender ethnicity is a potentially important lens for exploring the criminalisation and demonisation of certain ethnic groups, biases within criminal justice, and systemic inequalities experienced by ethnic minorities in areas such as education, employment, health, housing, and income.

The findings within this report by AOAV therefore hopes to contribute to arguments for greater monitoring of certain types of crime as well as additional, government-funded research into offences disproportionately affecting particular ethnic or age groups and the drivers of male violence.

Whilst beyond the scope of this piece, further analysis and investigation is also required into the incidence and impacts of violence upon other potentially vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ+ and disabled persons.


[1] Total (6,375) excludes 198 incidents where victim ethnicity was ‘not known/not recorded’.

[2] ‘Appendix tables: homicide in England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics,
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/appendixtableshomicideinenglandandwales.

[3] Small bases for ‘Black or Black British’, ‘Mixed’, ‘Asian or Asian British’, and ‘Other ethnic group’ categories in combined CSEW data from 2017 to 2020 mean that caution is required when making such comparisons;

Sexual offences prevalence and victim characteristics, England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/sexualoffencesprevalenceandvictimcharacteristicsenglandandwales.

[4] Excludes cases where ethnicity of victim/offender was ‘Not known’;

Appendix tables: homicide in England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/appendixtableshomicideinenglandandwales.

[5] ‘Domestic abuse prevalence and victim characteristics – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/domesticabuseprevalenceandvictimcharacteristicsappendixtables

‘Appendix tables: homicide in England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/appendixtableshomicideinenglandandwales;

 ‘Sexual offending: Crown Prosecution Service appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/sexualoffendingcrownprosecutionserviceappendixtables.

[6] ‘Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics,https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/domesticabuseandthecriminaljusticesystemappendixtables

‘Domestic abuse prevalence and victim characteristics – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/domesticabuseprevalenceandvictimcharacteristicsappendixtables.

[7] ‘Appendix tables: homicide in England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/appendixtableshomicideinenglandandwales.

[8] Nature of sexual assault by rape or penetration, England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/natureofsexualassaultbyrapeorpenetrationenglandandwales.

[9] ‘Child abuse in England and Wales: March 2020’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/childabuseinenglandandwales/march2020#main-points.

[10] Dataset excludes ‘Don’t know/can’t remember’ and ‘Don’t wish to answer’ responses;

‘Child abuse extent and nature – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/childabuseextentandnatureappendixtables.

[11] Sexual offences prevalence and victim characteristics, England and Wales’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/sexualoffencesprevalenceandvictimcharacteristicsenglandandwales.

[12] Dataset excludes ‘Don’t know/can’t remember’ and ‘Don’t wish to answer’ responses.

[13] Dataset excludes ‘Don’t know/can’t remember’ and ‘Don’t wish to answer’ responses.

[14] Dataset excludes ‘Don’t know/can’t remember’ and ‘Don’t wish to answer’ responses.

[15] Dataset excludes ‘Don’t know/can’t remember’ and ‘Don’t wish to answer’ responses;

‘Impact of child abuse on later life, CSEW, March 2016’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/adhocs/007527impactofchildabuseonlaterlifecrimesurveyforenglandandwalesyearendingmarch2016.

‘People who were abused as children are more likely to be abused as an adult’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/peoplewhowereabusedaschildrenaremorelikelytobeabusedasanadult/2017-09-27.

[16] ‘Partner abuse in detail – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/partnerabuseindetailappendixtables.

[17] Excludes cases where gender was ‘Unknown’ or age ‘Not provided’.

[18] Excludes cases where gender was ‘Unknown’ or age ‘Not provided’.

[19] Excludes cases where gender was ‘Unknown’ or age ‘Not provided’.

[20] Excludes cases where ethnicity was ‘Not Provided/Not stated’.

[21] Excludes cases where ethnicity was ‘Not Provided/Not stated’.

[22] ‘Child sexual abuse offences’ include ‘child rape offences’, ‘child abuse image offences’, and ‘other child sexual abuse offences’;

Child abuse and the criminal justice system – Appendix tables’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/childabuseandthecriminaljusticesystemappendixtables.

[23] ‘Child abuse in England and Wales: March 2020’, Office for National Statistics, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/childabuseinenglandandwales/march2020#measuring-the-data.