More than 100,000 sexual offences were recorded in the year ending March 2016
Police forces recorded 106,098 sexual offences in the year ending March 2016 – a 20 per cent rise on the previous year and the largest total since new recording standards were introduced in 2002, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
An ONS analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales said: "As well as improvements in recording practices, this is thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes, including non-recent victims."
Over the same period, there was an 8 per cent rise in reports of offences that took place over 20 years ago compared with the previous year.
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We must never return to the dark days when child abuse was cloaked in a culture of secrecy
The report suggested recording of historical sexual offences had been on the rise since high-profile coverage of police investigations such as Operation Yewtree, which was launched in 2012 in the wake of the Sir Jimmy Savile scandal.
There were large year-on-year rises in specific offences such as sexual activity involving a child under 16 (31 per cent), sexual assault on a female aged 13 and over (20 per cent), and sexual grooming (51 per cent).
An NSPCC spokesman said: "Sadly we know that child abuse goes on every day, as these alarming figures show.
Figures from the Home Office showed that 90 per cent of rape victims were women
"However, it is very encouraging that victims now feel confident to speak out about abuse, and are able to come forward in the knowledge that they will be listened to and taken seriously.
"We must never return to the dark days when child abuse was cloaked in a culture of secrecy."
About 2 per cent of adults had experienced sexual assault, including attempts, in the 12 months to March 2016.
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Separate figures from the Home Office Data Hub showed 90 per cent of rape victims were women and the majority (78 per cent) of sexual offences were against people under 30.
The ONS said improvements in recording crimes by the police were behind a 27 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of instances of violence against the person to just under a million.
Some 57 per cent of these were without injury and 43 per cent were recorded as causing injury, although these also included attempted crimes.
The number of murder victims under 16 was the lowest since records began
Overall, there were 571 homicides, including murder, manslaughter and infanticide – an 11 per cent rise on the previous year, the ONS said.
But the number of victims under the age of 16 was the lowest since records began in 1972 – at 38.
Police recorded 880 modern slavery offences in the same period, eight months after legislation creating the new offence came into force on July 31 2015.
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