THE number of sexual offences reported to the police in the Fermanagh and Omagh district rose by over 12 per cent during the last financial year, the latest crime statistics released by the PSNI have revealed.

Between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, a total of 164 sexual offences were recorded in the local policing district, an increase of 18 from the 146 offences reported in the previous 12-month period.

This represents a rise of 12.3 per cent.

Statistics released by the PSNI show that, across Northern Ireland as a whole, a total of 3,443 sexual offences were reported to police.

The police report detailing the latest crime figures revealed that this was the highest level recorded province-wide since 1998/99 and is almost three times the level recorded in 2000/01.

While Helena Bracken, who manages the Enniskillen office of the sexual violence charity Nexus NI, told the Impartial Reporter that any rise was “disconcerting and upsetting”, she added that young people, in particular, were now more willing to come forward and report these types of crimes.

The manager of the local office attributed this to the recent media focus on sexual violence as well as education and awareness work being carried out “on the ground” in local schools and colleges by Nexus and partner agencies, such as Women’s Aid and Victim Support.

She said: “People are less willing to say nothing, but I still believe we’re only scratching the surface.”

Helena revealed that there is currently a “massive” waiting list of people across Northern Ireland for the services provided by Nexus. She said that only a small proportion of the charity’s clients decide to go forward and prosecute.

“There’s an incredible amount of people who will never, ever use the criminal justice system. Some of our clients don’t want to go through the court process, as they don’t want the focus on their family or the local community. It can be re-traumatising for them,” she said.

The manager said that over 600 people were on the Nexus waiting list in Northern Ireland, with 33 people waiting to avail of services locally.

However, with just two part-time counsellors in the Enniskillen office, Helena admitted that there was “minimal work” happening because funding had to be scaled back.

Meanwhile, as well as the rise in the number of recorded sexual offences in Fermanagh and Omagh during the last financial year, the police statistics show an increase in the number of possession of weapons offences and thefts from people, as well as smaller rises in drug trafficking, robberies and public order offences.

Overall, though, the number of crimes reported to police in Fermanagh and Omagh fell by 7.8 per cent in 2017-18 – the largest decrease of any of the PSNI districts across Northern Ireland.

A total of 4,272 incidents were recorded locally in the last financial year, 363 fewer than the 2016/17 total figure of 4,635. There were falls in the number of crimes involving violence against the person, thefts and criminal damage.