A record number of domestic abuse offences were recorded in Gwent last year, new figures show.

It followed the trend across England and Wales, which saw the number of crimes logged by police forces rise for the sixth successive year.

Anti-domestic violence charity Refuge said women and girls face an "epidemic of violence" and called on the Government to prioritise bringing perpetrators to justice and protecting victims.

Office for National Statistics figures show 9,681 domestic abuse-related crimes were recorded by Gwent Police in the year to March – up from 8,679 the year before and the highest number since 2015-16, when comparable records began.

It meant there were 16.5 domestic abuse offences per 1,000 people in the area last year.

The number of violent domestic abuse-related crimes in Gwent also reached a record high last year, rising from 6,618 to 7,183.

Nationally, 910,000 domestic abuse offences were recorded in the year to March – 7.7% more than the year before – and also a record.

Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, said the figures show "we are still facing an epidemic of violence against women and girls which shows no sign of stopping".

Ms Davison said: "Survivors and women experiencing abuse cannot wait for change."

Despite the rise in offences, the number of arrests and crimes referred to the Crown Prosecution Service has fallen across the country.

Across the 41 police forces that supplied sufficient data, the arrest rate per 100 domestic abuse-related crimes fell from 32.6 in 2020-21 to 31.3 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of referrals of domestic abuse suspects also fell, from 77,812 to 67,063.

"This is simply not good enough when women’s lives are at risk," Ms Davison added.

"The figures restate the importance of Refuge’s calls for improved mandatory training for all criminal justice professionals so they recognise the seriousness of domestic abuse, and can respond in an appropriate, trauma-informed way.

"Now is the time to prioritise bringing perpetrators to justice."

However, the charge rate increased across the country for the first time in four years, with 73% of cases considered by the CPS leading to a charge in 2021-22.

But in Gwent, 708 cases led to 457 charges, meaning the charge rate fell from 70% in 2020-21 to 65% last year.

The Home Office said domestic abuse is "a devastating crime that ruins lives" and that it is fully supporting victims, survivors and their families.

A spokesperson said more than £230 million is being invested to tackle rising domestic abuse offences, with the Domestic Abuse Act further supporting victims.

Of the funding, £3.3 million has been committed to training first responders to treat every case sensitively.