Death threats have become more common as part of a wider increase in online abuse – and new data shows that numbers have surged over the past few years.
New figures from the Home Office show the number of 'threats to kill' offences recorded by Surrey Police has risen 60% in the past few years, from 650 in the year to June 2019 to 1,041 over the same period to June 2022.
Threatening to kill someone is an offence that can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of the charity Victim Support, said that while these figures may reflect an increase in the number of people coming forward, police must take threats seriously.
“Death threats are terrifying – especially because they are normally part of a bigger picture of abuse – like hate crime or domestic abuse," she said.
"This huge rise in offences, coupled with a big drop in charging rates, suggests police are struggling to deal with the volume of this crime."
In Surrey, 52 of these offences resulted in a charge or summons in the year to June – 5% of all offences.
This was down from 7.2% in the year to June 2019.
No suspect was identified in 10% of cases, and 26.8% of cases were dropped due to evidential difficulties, despite a suspect being identified and the victim supporting action.
Calls for action against death threats have increased in recent years, with public figures, politicians and sportspeople speaking out about the volume of threats they face on social media.
Across England and Wales, 51,280 such offences were recorded by police forces, up 49% from 34,379 before the pandemic.
Nationally, charge rates have dropped from 11.5% in the 12 months to June 2019, to 6.6% in the year to June 2022.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Police recorded violence should be interpreted with caution as increases may reflect improvements made by police forces in identifying and recording offences, as well as an increase in victims reporting incidents.
“We are injecting record funds into policing, giving police the powers they need to bear down on crime, and are on track to deliver on the manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 additional police officers across England and Wales by March 2023,” they said.