Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Murder through the ages and across the world

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The homicide rate for England and Wales has fallen sharply since 2002/3, and we are one of the safest countries in the world.

Historical crime data

The Home Office recently (16 July 2015) published some very interesting data sets – including summaries of recorded crime in England and Wales from 1898 to 2014/15. I thought this would be interesting to peruse, starting with a look at the murder rate over the last century and a bit.

The official definition of homicide includes murder, manslaughter and infanticide with corporate manslaughter included in more recent years.

The figure below shows the figures for the whole 117 year period:

murder rate

As you can see, the worst year was 2002/3 but this is something of an anomaly as it includes the 173 murders attributed to Harold Shipman that came to light in the official inquiry in 2002.

Very sadly, the 2005/6 figure includes the 52 people killed in the 7 July London bombings.

The recent fall in the homicide rate is particularly noticeable. There were 600 homicides in 1974, 621 in 1984, 726 in 1994, 868 in 2004/5 but just 534 in 2014/15, a fall of 38% in the last decade.

Since the population for England and Wales was 57.5 million in 2014/15 but was only 48.5 million in 1974, we can say that we are appreciably safer today, with the risk of being murdered just 1 in 107,678 compared to 1 in 80,833 forty years ago.


International comparisons

Data collated by the World Bank on intentional homicides per 100,000 people shows that the UK’s homicide rate is roughly comparable to France, Germany and Spain (all around 1 per 100,000), but that many countries in the world are much more dangerous to live in.

Our homicide rate is less than one fifth of the United States (5 per 100,000) which itself is much safer than many countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The table below shows all the countries where the homicide rate is more than 20 per 100,000 (1 in 5,000) as well as a couple of others I thought might be of interest. Apparently, it’s almost six times more dangerous to live in Jamaica than Afghanistan.

murder rate by country

So, it appears that we are living in one of the safest times in one of the safest countries in the world.

Something to be proud of.


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