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Concern at fall in conviction rate for rapes in Essex

Concern as rape conviction rate in Essex falls. Stock image of victim.

Concern as rape conviction rate in Essex falls. Stock image of victim.

A senior prosecutor has said the drop in conviction rates for rapes in Essex is a concern.

The number of rapes reported in Essex during 2014/15 has increased by almost 50% on the previous year – but the number of convictions has remained static despite a rise in prosecutions.

Figures published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary today reveal that although the Crown Prosection Service took 36 more people to court last year than the one before, the number of convictions rose by just 11, and fell compared to three and four years’ ago – despite the dramatic rise in reported offences.

Some of the rise in cases has been attributed to better recording and reporting of rape, while the difference in prosecutions and convictions could be in part due to the length of time cases take to conclude.

Punam Malhan, senior district crown prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: “Rape cases are among the most difficult we deal with and we work closely with the police to build robust cases for prosecution in court.

“Our conviction rate for rape in the region for 2014/15 is 62% compared to the national rate of 57%. However, in Essex, the conviction rate is 48.6%, a drop of 11.3% on 2013/14.

“We are concerned at the drop in the number of convictions in Essex and we have carried out a piece of work to see if there are specific reasons which could account for this. We are now examining the findings in detail and will be working with police to address any issues.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Tracy Hawkings, head of public protection, said: “I welcome the findings and it shows Essex Police has an ethical and consistent approach to the recording of rape. It is imperative victims know they will be believed.

“It is crucial the police and wider justice system do all we can to ensure victims are supported and quality investigations are carried out.

“We will work closely with the CPS and continue to improve our response to rape. We have specialist teams dedicated for rape investigations and improvements are being seen.

“We are working closely with the voluntary sector and the county’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre to further improve the service for victims and opportunities for successful prosecutions.

“We recognise further work needs to be done to improve our effectiveness in managing child rape investigations.”

Nick Alston, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “It is always distressing to hear the number of rapes has increased. I firmly believe however in Essex victims have greater confidence in coming forward and that is one reason for the increase.

“More than a year ago the Chief Constable and his team identified the need for improvement. A major programme of training and awareness is now underway to improve performance. There remains great determination in Essex Police at all levels to bring perpetrators before the courts wherever possible.”

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