THE COUNTRY'S most violent region is Gwent, a rural area of south- east Wales, according to a new analysis of police figures.
A survey by The Independent has found huge variations in the levels of violence recorded in England and Wales, with the worst areas suffering rates of violent crime five times more than the safest regions.
The Gwent police force area has the highest rate with 2,039 offences for every 100,000 people, compared to Hertfordshire, with 380 violent crimes per 100,000 population.
Analysis of more accurate and detailed statistics released by the Home Office shows the true scale and distribution of non-sexual violent crimes. The vast bulk of the offences are punch-ups, drunken assaults and domestic conflicts, while murders and more serious attacks make up about 5 per cent of the incidents. There were 502,793 offences of "violence against the person" in the year ending March 1999.
A more accurate picture of the level of violence was first revealed in October when the Home Office published for the first time several categories of "low level" violence reported to the police in England and Wales. This showed an extra 150,000 victims of "common assault", most often as a result of drunken brawls, and 80,000 people who have suffered harassment, including stalking and racial intimidation.
A further 21,500 recorded assaults on police officers were also reported for the first time.
Sexual offences, such as rape, are calculated in a separate category and account for 36,174 crimes.
Using the newly published list of violent offence against a person The Independent has calculated how many non-sexual crimes involving violence took place in each police force area per 100,000 population.
The results showed that while many of the large urban forces, such as the Metropolitan Police in London (1,726 offences per 100,000), Greater Manchester (1,394) and West Midlands, (1,179), had high rates of violence, not all suffered the same. Merseyside had a ratio of 868 per 100,000 and West Yorkshire had 791.
Similarly the more rural forces had greatly differing rates, with Hertfordshire, 380 offences per 100,000, and …