Sexual offending rates rise again after falling during Covid

Significant decline noted in homicide figures but incidents of fraud continue to increase

Recorded incidents of sexual offending have resumed their upward trend after falling during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There was a 12 per cent increase in sexual offending in 2021 compared with 2020, translating to an extra 364 incidents according to the latest statistical release from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Reports of sexual offences had been increasing steadily in recent years before dropping by 10 per cent during 2020. This was believed to be the result of Covid-19 restrictions and the effective shuttering of the night-time economy, a factor that also led to a significant drop-off in street assaults, burglaries and public order incidents.

Many of those crimes still remain at lower levels than before the pandemic but sexual offending has resumed its upward trajectory.


Kidnapping and similar offences also increased significantly in 2021, rising 27 per cent (or 36 extra incidents).

By far the biggest increase in offending occurred in the area of fraud. There were 16,929 frauds recorded in 2021 compared with 7,834 the previous year, an increase of 116 per cent. “The increase was largely driven by unauthorised transactions and attempts to obtain personal or banking information online or by phone,” the CSO said.

Fraud offences, particularly those involving unauthorised card and account transactions, have been rising in recent years, with that increase spiking during the lockdowns of the past two years.

Other areas of serious offending have continued to fall. Homicide offences fell 50 per cent in 2021, from 78 to 39 incidents, while reported burglary and related offences fell 21 per cent.

Drug offences fell 13 per cent and weapons/explosives offences fell 19 per cent.

Fall in prosecutions

The latter half of 2021 also had an expected fall in prosecutions for breaches of Covid-19 offences. There were 308 Covid breaches recorded on the Garda Pulse system in the last quarter of the year compared with 539 during the third quarter.

This drop reflected “the relatively low level of Covid-19 restrictions compared to earlier quarters”, the CSO said.

The CSO said records relating to offending may be affected by the premature cancellation of 999 calls on the Garda call-dispatch system, an issue that is the subject of an internal Garda investigation.

It said it would have to await information from the Garda “including the time periods involved [how far back this issue goes], the crime types impacted, and crucially, the estimated numbers of crimes which were not recorded” before it could determine the impact on statistics.

The CSO crime statistics continue to be published with the “under reservation” warning due to earlier incidents of the Garda failing to properly record data.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times