Worst performing police force solves just one in 140 rapes

Only one in 140 rapes are being solved by the country’s worst performing police force, new figures show.

Data reveal that a rape victim’s chances of their attacker being prosecuted can double depending on which side of a street they live.

Only 0.7 per cent of rapes reported to Wiltshire Police resulted in a charge or summons, according to Home Office data for the three years from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

The most successful force, Durham, had more than 10 times the success rate in bringing prosecutions, with 7.1 per cent of rapes resulting in a charge.

But Cleveland, the police force neighbouring Durham, solved only half as many rapes, according to data compiled by Police Federation researcher Gavin Hales from Home Office statistics.

Rape charge/summons rate (%) for police forces in England and Wales

Rape prosecution rates ‘pathetic and terrifying’

Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, warned that women were being deterred from reporting street harassment because of “pathetic and terrifying” rape prosecution rates.

“In Cleveland, next-door to Durham, a prosecution is half as likely (3.8 per cent), though two victims could be raped in the same street that straddles the county boundary,” she said.

“There is no difference between rape in Durham and rape in Wiltshire or Cleveland. It is the same very damaging, sometimes life-scarring crime. What is different is the effort and skill put into investigating and prosecuting rape by some forces over others.

“And let’s be clear, none of these figures are anything but appallingly low. There is no crime with prosecution percentages as pathetic and terrifying as these across the board.

“It is no wonder that women don’t report cases of street harassment when this most serious crime is treated derisively by so many forces.”

Dame Vera Baird, the victims' commissioner, said rape prosecution rates were 'pathetic and terrifying'

Her comments come amid growing demands to improve the investigation and prosecution of all sex crimes following the murder, rape and kidnap of Sarah Everard by PC Wayne Couzens, an officer with a history of flashing and misogyny.

The Government is considering whether to make street harassment a new offence in order to force police to take it more seriously and record it as a crime.

Indecent exposure, which is a recorded crime, is massively under-reported, according to official data. Some 10,709 cases were reported in 2019 but just 735 (seven per cent) resulted in a prosecution. However, the Official for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 147,000 individuals were victims of it.

Police have been urged to take indecent exposure offences more seriously.

Dame Vera said violence against women should be put on a par with terrorism, county lines drug-dealing and child sexual exploitation by including it in the Government’s national strategic policing requirements (SPR).

“It puts responsibility on the Government for ensuring that sufficient capabilities are in place to respond to the serious threats named in it,” said Dame Vera. “Terrorism, county lines and child sexual exploitation are all in the SPR.

“Only by national leadership and better resourcing can we even start to ensure that whatever practice it is that puts Durham police in the lead is learnt from and transferred to other forces which are totally failing potentially seriously traumatised victims who go to them for help.”

Wiltshire police said it had been “working hard” to improve outcomes, with the level of rapes resulting in a charge rising to 4.1 per cent in October 2021.

It had set up a tri-force action plan, working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and recruited extra specialist staff to support victims.

“We are seeing more cases referred to CPS more quickly. We are also increasing the number of perpetrators being charged and prosecuted,” said a spokesman.

Earlier this year, Home Office figures showed record numbers of victims of crime, including rape, were withdrawing from prosecutions because of court delays and falling conviction rates.

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