Sexual offences in Bolton have soared to their highest levels on record, amid a crime rate far above the national average.

Findings from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 1,104 sexual offences were recorded in Bolton in the year to March, up from 810 last year and the highest number since records began in 2003.

The data has been released after statistics show Bolton has a crime rate of more than 120 for every 1,000 people.

Cllr Rabiya Jiva, who sits on Bolton Council’s stronger communities committee, said: “There’s two things to put it down to, are people feeling confident in reporting back to Greater Manchester Police or are we looking at it from a position where crime is rising.”

She added: “What is the catalyst for this? Is there that public confidence in the police or are out communities still operating in a manner where sexual assaults occur?”

Cllr Jiva says she feels that cuts to police services have meant that not only numbers, but also many years of vital experience in dealing with complex matters such as sexual offences have been lost.

She said: “We’ve got less people to do the job, we’ve lost vital staff and we’ve lost experienced staff.

“Especially with sexual assault crimes you need the right officers with the right levels of experience following those cases through to their conclusion.”

The Bolton News:

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi says the findings on sexual offences are the 'most concerning' part of the Office for National Statistics' recent report

Many of these fears were echoed by Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi, who before entering parliament had worked as a barrister for the Crown Prosecution Service

Responding to rising crime figures in the borough, she said: “The most worrying aspect of these figures is the record number of sexual offences.

“More must be done to protect people and support victims.”

But the government says it has a plan in place to deal tackle sexual offences in areas like Bolton.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The police and the Crown Prosecution Service must continue to raise the bar in handling such cases, so victims know they will be taken seriously and the criminals responsible are put behind bars.

"Through our Rape Review Action Plan, we are working to make sure the system works better."