More sexual offences were recorded in Sutton over the last year, despite an overall drop in recorded crime.

The Met Police recorded 321 incidents of sexual offences in Sutton in the 12 months to March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That was an increase of 8% compared to the previous year.

At 1.6 crimes per 1,000 people, that was slightly lower than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 2.5.

Overall, police recorded 13% fewer crimes, excluding fraud, across England and Wales, with around 4.6 million offences in the year to March.

The ONS said the annual drop was helped by a "substantial" fall in crime during April last year, when the first lockdown restrictions were introduced.

The number of recorded crimes increased between July and September, it added, before decreasing again as lockdown measures were imposed toward the end of last year.

However, in March this year, recorded crime was higher than the previous year as the phased exit from lockdown started.

Billy Gazard, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on patterns of crime.

"There were large decreases in theft offences, such as domestic burglary and theft from the person, as more people stayed at home and limited their social contact."

The total number of offences in Sutton fell by 16%, with police recording 11,946 crimes over the course of the year.

This puts the overall crime rate at 57.9 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 77.6.

Other crimes recorded in Sutton included:

  • 3,970 violent offences, a decrease of 7%
  • 4,578 theft offences, down 28%
  • 922 incidents of criminal damage and arson, down 17%
  • 786 drug offences, up 33% 97 possession of weapons such as firearms or knives, down 1%
  • 867 public order offences, down 10%

The ONS figures did show a 28% increase in stalking and harassment offences across England and Wales in the year ending in March, compared to the previous year.

This was driven by an increase in cyber stalking cases during the pandemic, according to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

The trust, which was set up to support victims of stalking following the disappearance of Suzy in 1986, said it had seen a rise in calls to its helpline since March last year.

Violet Alvarez, spokesperson from the trust, said: "We know that domestic abuse has risen drastically during the pandemic, and this is evident in the rise of ex-intimate partner stalking cases that we have seen on the helpline."

She said specialist training across police forces and courts was needed to ensure victims were adequately cared for and understood.