Lockdowns saw higher rate of women victims of domestic homicide – ONS

Figures for England and Wales were published on Thursday.

10 February 2022

The proportion of women homicide victims who were killed by a partner, ex-partner or relative was higher during periods of lockdown in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Some 49% of adult female victims in England and Wales were killed in a domestic homicide (75) in the year to March 2021, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) based on data from the Home Office Homicide Index.

But during periods of lockdown – March 23 to July 3 2020, November 5 to December 2 later that year and January 5 to March 31 2021 – the figure was 56%, which highlights the “change in composition of homicides during the restrictions”, the ONS said.

It added: “The impact of Covid-19 restrictions appeared to differ by the nature of the homicide. For example, the number of victims who were killed in a public place in the year ending March 2021 fell by 27%, from 350 to 255, whereas the number of homicides in a residential setting increased by 5% (from 323 to 339).”

Of the 75 female victims, 72 were killed by a male suspect.

The ONS report provides a detailed breakdown of victims of homicide – the collective term for murder, manslaughter and infanticide offences – recorded by police forces in England and Wales by factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and circumstances.

Homicides are recorded as “domestic” when the killer was in a relationship, or previously involved, with a victim who was aged 16 or over. Or someone who is their child, parent, sibling or another relative (including step and adopted relationships).

There were 114 domestic homicides in the year to March 2021, a similar number to the average over the last five years but seven fewer (a drop of 6%) compared with the previous year.

But the number is likely to increase as police investigations continue and the index is updated.

Of the 114 domestic homicides, 67 victims were killed by a partner or ex-partner (down from 74), 27 were killed by a parent, son or daughter (down from 32) and 20 were killed by another family member (up from 15).

In over a third of female adult victims, the suspect was their partner or ex-partner (37%, 57 homicides).

Over the last 10 years, there was an average of 77 female victims a year killed by a partner or ex-partner.

The numbers “reflect the low level of domestic homicides seen since year ending March 2017 and the general downward trend in the number of domestic homicides over the last 10 years”, the ONS said.

The largest percentage increase in the latest year was in the number of child victims aged 16 and under, up from 43 to 59 (a 37% increase). This was driven by an increase in victims aged under five years, which rose from 28 to 44 victims.

But “trends for this age group tend to fluctuate from one year to the next because of the relatively low numbers”, the ONS said.

Overall, the total number of victims of homicide in England and Wales in the year to March 2021 was 594 – 79 fewer (a 12% decrease) than the previous year and the lowest number since the year ending March 2016 (540 victims).

The preceding year included 39 victims of human trafficking whose bodies were found in a lorry in Grays, Essex, in October 2019.

Excluding these victims, there would have been a smaller (6%) year-on-year decrease.

The ONS said the incidence rate for homicide remains very low, at 9.9 per million population. This is the lowest rate since the year ending March 2016 (9.3 per million population).

Total homicides peaked in 2002/03 at 17.9 per million population, the highest since current records began in 1969. The figures for 2002/03 included the 173 victims of Dr Harold Shipman.

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