Sharp increases in sexual crimes and domestic abuse incidents last year

Garda stats suggest crime rates returned to pre-pandemic levels in second six months

An Garda Síochána recorded sharp increases in sexual crimes and domestic abuse incidents last year, with the volume of offences reported returning to pre-pandemic levels in the second half of the year.

Provisional figures published by the force show that fraud cases more than doubled last year while the number of blackmail and extortion attempts increased by 71 per cent. The number of cases involving harassment, staking and threats were up 23 per cent.

There was a 10 per cent rise in reported sexual offences in the period to November, the force said. It noted an 18 per cent rise in sexual assaults and a 10 per cent increase in rapes. Gardaí also attended 10 per cent more domestic abuse incidents last year than in 2020.

The Garda’s report on provisional crime figures for the Policing Authority said the upward trend in sexual crime resumed last year after plateauing in 2020 after having increased since 2015.

Still, the Garda said it cannot be concluded that the increase in sexual offences in recent years was solely due to an increased number of incidents occurring.

“The increase in sexual offences figures may relate to a change in reporting behaviour whereby victims are increasingly likely to report sexual crime,” it said.

Improved data

“Furthermore, ongoing efforts by An Garda Síochána regarding improvement of data quality and recording may be a contributing factor to the upward trend in recorded incidents of both sexual offences and crimes against the person in recent years.”

Although the number of human-trafficking offences rose 50 per cent, the force said the percentage change from year to year was liable to large variation because of the low volume of cases.

The number of manslaughter incidents fell by 67 per cent, murders were down 35 per cent and attempted murders by 16 per cent, with the Garda again saying these categories were susceptible to large annual variations due to low volumes.

The Garda data is separate to official crime figures which the Central Statistics Office publishes quarterly “under reservation” because of concerns about the quality of the statistics produced by the force.

The rising overall trend was recorded after severe lockdown measures were lifted last May, ending restrictions similar to those seen in the first Covid-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, a period when reported crime dropped sharply.

“In 2021, there were upward trends in most types of crime throughout the year, with levels of reported crime in the latter half of the year being similar to pre-pandemic levels,” the report said.

“An exception to this is property crime (especially burglary) which, although increasing throughout 2021, has remained low compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

Romance fraud

The force cited “large increases in reporting nationally” on financial crimes such as account takeover fraud, card-not-present fraud and investment fraud. It also cited increased levels of romance fraud and phishing, where people are tricked into providing information online that could be used to steal from them.

The reported rise in blackmail or extortion cases came despite a decrease in violent property crime, particularly reductions in robbery from the person and aggravated burglary.

The force previously said the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau seized €5.64 million in cash and £38,571 sterling last year. The amount of cash forfeited to the State was €8.23 million while drugs with an estimated value of €63.69 million, subject to analysis, were seized.

The overall number of reported drug offences dropped 13 per cent -- with reported offences for the cultivation or manufacture of drugs down 35 per cent, possession for sale or supply down 16 per cent, and possession for personal use down 12 per cent.

In late 2020, simple possession of cannabis was added as an offence that could be considered under the adult caution scheme.

“During the period 14th December 2020 - 31st December 2021 in excess of 1,600 persons have been issued adult cautions for possession of cannabis,” the report said.

Crimes against the person plateaued in 2020 following a gradual rise over the preceding three years but the reported number of offences was 4 per cent higher last year.

“There has been an overall reduction during Covid-19, which is likely to be linked to decreased public mobility and closure of licensed establishments during certain periods,”the Garda said.

Assaults

Still, the report said a “steady increase” last year coincided with the gradual easing of restrictions. In that category, the most common offences were minor assault and assault causing harm.

“Approximately 66 per cent of assault typically occurs in public locations,” the report said.

“Throughout the pandemic, changes in overall assault levels have been driven primarily by changes in assault in public places, which have increased or decreased in line with the level of Covid-19 restrictions. Public assault increased by almost 11 per cent in 2021, while assault in residences decreased by 2 per cent.”

The force issued some 320,500 fixed charge notices on the roads in 2021, including more than 179,000 for speeding and almost 24,000 for using a phone.