There were 1,600 fewer victims of crime in Wiltshire last year compared to the year before.

But there was a rise in the number of sex offences being reported, according to figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics.

Wiltshire is already recognised as a low-crime area and the 4.7 per cent reduction in crime from January to December 2013, compared to a country average of 3.4 per cent, will strengthen that impression.

The force has maintained its position as the sixth lowest nationally for all categories of crime and fourth lowest for house burglaries.

There was a small increase of 2.3 per cent in violence against the person, compared with 1.1 per cent nationally, but Wiltshire police put this down to an increase in the number of victims reporting first-time offences as a result of its campaign to encourage victims of domestic violence to come forward.

Sexual offences have increased by 30.7 per cent, up by almost a third, but, again, the force puts this down to changes in recording practices and high-profile cases with multiple victims in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal. Nationally there has been a rise of 16.6 per cent.

Chief Constable Pat Geenty said: “I am really encouraged by Wiltshire Police maintaining its sixth position nationally with the lowest overall crime figures.

“We have got some areas to work on, such as non-dwelling burglaries. I am pleased the changes we have made to the way we record crimes are resulting in more accurate crime figures.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, said: “At first glance the figures on sexual offences are a cause for concern. But I am aware that a crime validation team has been working hard since the middle of 2013 to ensure that crimes are accurately recorded.

“This welcome development has led to the sharp upturn.”