During the last fifteen years the rate of homicides (which comprise all cases of murder, manslaughter and infanticide) occurring in England and Wales has doubled. Analysis of the ages of victims shows that the homicide rate is rising most rapidly amongst males in or around their twenties, over 15 per million of whom are now killed as a result of the deliberate acts of other persons each year.

Table 1 gives a breakdown of the specific causes of homicide deaths recorded in the Registrar General’s Statistical Reviews since 1950 and Figure 2 illustrates the proportional distribution of the methods used in killings recorded by the police as homicides in 1974. The figures indicate a significant rise in the numbers of homicides committed with knives or other sharp instruments over the past two decades.

About one in every three of all male homicide victims were killed by stabbing in the first half of the 1970’s as opposed to only one in every seven in the 1950’s. By contrast poisoning, which was about as frequent as stabbing in the 1950’s, now accounts for one in every 50 homicides. Killings by firearms and explosives have accounted for an approximately constant proportion of all homicides in England and Wales since the 1950’s, at about one in every ten (although this proportion rose in 1974). Strangulation was on average involved in around one in six homicides in England and Wales in the early 1970’s and in about one in three of all such deaths amongst females.