Assaults and sex crimes spike to previous highs as Covid-19 restrictions eased

Support needed for sexual assault survivors, says head of Rape Crisis Network Ireland

Sexual crimes and offences against the person, mainly assaults, have significantly increased in the Republic as Covid-19 restrictions have eased in recent months.

Most crime types plummeted during the pandemic but the numbers of assaults and other “crimes against the person” are now back to pre-pandemic highs and reports of sex crimes are close to record highs.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland executive Clíona Saidléar said while the number of reports of sex crimes to the Garda was back up after declining during the pandemic, more survivors needed to be supported to come forward.

"What is clear is that there have been significant fluctuations in cases reported to An Garda Síochána over the Covid period with a range of variables potentially impacting perpetration opportunities and people's reporting practices," she said.


“We must continue to understand the barriers to reporting and detection in order to ensure we have robust criminal justice response to these crimes.”

The number of sex crimes reported to the Garda since the start of this year has been around 300 offences per month. That level of reporting to the Garda has only been exceeded once before; during periods in 2019 when the number of sex crime reports was at an all-time high.

In a report to the Policing Authority, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said the number of sexual offences reported to the Garda began increasing from 2015 and "plateaued" in 2020. However, that "upward trend has resumed" this year.

“In the 12 months to August, 2021, there has been an 11 per cent increase in reported sexual offences compared to the 12 months prior,” he said.

The latest provisional crime data from the Garda, to the end of September, shows “crimes against the person” spiked suddenly during June and July, reaching just over 2,000 offences per month during that period.

That level of offending has only been seen once in the last six years; in the summer of 2019 when the number of crimes against the person, mainly assaults, briefly exceeded 2,000 offences per month.

Overall, most crime types plummeted after the onset of pandemic just over 18 months ago and remained low for over a year. That has changed in recent month as society has re-opened.

However, while crime types such as homicide, gun crime, criminal damage, burglary and public order are all increasing gradually, the rate of increase has been much faster for assaults and sexual crimes.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times