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Suffolk: Police commissioner’s broadside at force over sex assaults response

PUBLISHED: 09:24 19 February 2014 | UPDATED: 09:24 19 February 2014

More to be done to help sex assault victims. Photo posed by model.

More to be done to help sex assault victims. Photo posed by model.

One in four of all sex assaults in Suffolk are now reported to police more than a year after the alleged offence, it has emerged.

It means there are now almost as many sex crimes reported after 12 months as there are in the 24 hours after the crime.

The news comes as Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner is today set to challenge his own force over its performance in dealing with sex offences.

Tim Passmore said he was not convinced victims always get the help they require, adding detection rates still need to be higher.

Figures show in 2010/2011 around 20% of all reported serious sex offences were deemed historic – more than a year old - compared with 25% in 2013.

The data is due to be discussed before Suffolk’s Police and Crime Panel today.

In response to Mr Passmore’s concerns the constabulary said it is improving its solved rate and is determined to support victims.

Detectives have acknowledged the ‘Jimmy Savile’ effect has seen a dramatic increase in people who have come forward to say they were sexually abused in the past. Some complaints date back to the 1970s.

Historic abuse allegations in Suffolk have risen by 55 per cent since ITV’s Exposure documentary The Other Side of Jimmy Savile was aired on October 2012. The increase is mirrored nationally.

In the 12 months after the Savile programme Suffolk police received 134 reports of historic child abuse, compared to 86 reports in the year before.

Despite this increase Mr Passmore said: “I want to be convinced (serious sexual assaults) are a top priority for the constabulary and that we are putting in the right investment, the right training, and the right supervision to improve our performance in comparison to other forces.

“The solved rate is below halfway and we need to improve that. We are trying to build confidence, get people to report offences, and improve the solved rate to bring offenders to justice.

“It’s a dreadful crime. We are not prepared to tolerate it. We need to make sure we are focussing on victims and getting them the help they need.

“I remain to be convinced that we are doing all we can to achieve that at the moment.”

However, Detective Superintendent Stuart Sedgwick said: “This is a priority area for us. People can be assured that we are determined to offer a supportive and caring service to victims while using our investigative resources effectively to catch those responsible and bring them to justice.

“We have implemented a series of measures to improve our performance in this area, in line with a key priority of solving more serious sexual offences contained within Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.

“Our Gemini teams, which contain the specialist investigators of serious sexual assaults, have been strengthened – and we have improved our procedures to ensure that all investigative opportunities are explored.

“As a result, our solved rate for serious sexual offences has improved significantly, increasing by more than 8% in the year to the end of January 2014, which is above the national average.

“This improvement is despite Suffolk seeing an increase in the proportion of historic offences reported. These are often complex cases to investigate due to the passing of time, but we have successfully detected a number of such cases.

Our message to victims of these crimes is clear - ‘have the confidence to come forward to speak to us. We will listen to you, and take your matter seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation, no matter how old the crime is’.”

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