SEXUAL offences have increased in Shropshire, despite an overall drop in recorded crime in the last year.

West Mercia Police recorded 716 incidents of sexual offences in Shropshire in the 12 months to September, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That was an increase of three per cent compared to the previous year.

At 2.2 crimes per 1,000 people, that was slightly lower than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 2.9.

Police forces across the two nations logged the highest number of rapes and sexual offences in a 12-month period in the year to September, the figures show.

Around 63,100 rapes were recorded in the year to September, according to the Office for National Statistics, up 13 per cent from the previous period (56,100).

This was the highest recorded annual figure to date and included 17,400 offences between July and September – the highest quarterly figure.

The ONS said the latest figures may reflect several factors, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”, and it urged caution when interpreting the data.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Nobody should have to experience the horror of rape and other sexual crimes.

“It’s encouraging that more victims of sexual violence are coming forward, and we’ve been clear that police must raise the bar in handling such cases so victims know that they will be taken seriously and criminals responsible are put behind bars."

Around 5.8 million offences were recorded across England and Wales in the year to September – a two per cent rise compared to the previous year – though there was a one per cent drop to 4.9 million offences when excluding cases of fraud and computer misuse.

The total number of offences in Shropshire fell by five per cent, with police recording 15,595 crimes over the course of the year.

This puts the overall crime rate at 47.9 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 82.4.

Other crimes recorded in Shropshire included:

  • 6,757 violent offences, a decrease of two per cent;
  • 4,325 theft offences, down 12 per cent;
  • 1,720 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 12 per cent;
  • 151 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 10 per cent;
  • 1,070 public order offences, up 20 per cent.