Rape reports soar to more than two a day in Suffolk
The number of serious sexual offences solved by Suffolk police has fallen to just one in 16, as rape reports soar.
Police in the county had a record 800 reports of rape last year, up almost 50pc in 12 months.
Amy Roch, director of Suffolk Rape Crisis, said they had seen a huge increase in the number of women and girls seeking their help.
Referrals to the charity were up by 64pc in 2017/18 compared to the year before.
She said the rise was mirrored across the country and there was a “desperate need” for long term funding for sexual violence services.
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“The #MeToo movement and the visibility of sexual violence within the media have obviously contributed to the increase in reporting and in demand for our services,” she said.
“We now need to make sure that the women who do choose to report are able to get justice.”
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Papers from the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s office show only 6pc of serious sexual assaults are solved by police – down from 10pc last year.
Suffolk Constabulary said all complaints were taken seriously and the rise in rape reports was down to “greater confidence” of victims to come forward.
Figures from a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper show the most common reason for cases not going ahead were the victim withdrawing support.
Suffolk police figures show in a third of cases, the victim did not support the investigation, making it very difficult for the case to proceed.
The second most common cause for cases stopping was “evidential difficulties”. That happened 118 times last year.
The data also shows the number of children below the age of nine who are rape victims doubled in Suffolk in the last three years to 30.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, reveal that around a third of rape cases which do get to court in Suffolk end in a conviction.
In 2017 29pc of Suffolk police’s prosecutions for rape were successful.
Last year the force brought 48 cases to court, and 14 resulted in convictions.
In the most recent case, Marian Pavel, 28, of Cavendish Way, Sudbury, pleaded guilty to raping an 18-year-old woman in Sudbury. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail earlier this week, as well as placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.
In Essex the number is even lower at 23pc. Across England and Wales one in five rape cases are successfully prosecuted.
Amy Roch said she was pleased prosecutions were above the national average in the county, but added: “There is still far more work to be done at every stage of the criminal justice process.”
Speaking about the national figures, Dr Hannah Bows, senior lecturer in criminology at Teeside University, said: “Something is going wrong because the evidence required in rape cases to get a case brought to court is so high.
“Any question marks and the case is unlikely to go forward.
“That’s why it’s so frustrating when people say there are loads of false rape cases because it’s not true.”
She feared the figures may prevent people reporting rape.
“If someone said to you do you want to have your whole life exposed for around a one in three chance of success you’d probably say no,” she said.
But the data shows that prosecutions for Suffolk Police are getting more successful.
In 2016, only 21pc of rape cases brought to court ended in convictions.
Suffolk has traditionally had a low conviction rate for rapes.
It led to Suffolk Rape Crisis warning police in 2016 it needed to “get serious” about sexual abuse.
Since then the police have put in a range of measures to improve.
Suffolk Police and Crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the Constabulary had been given more money to tackle sexual offences and more offenders were being prosecuted.
“The criminal justice system as a whole has got to be more willing to put prosecutions forward,” he said. “Even if they are not successful they do act as a deterrent.”
He said the crime had traditionally been unreported which was “shocking”.
“Which ever way you look at it there is still a great deal to do,” Mr Passmore added.
•What police say
Temporary Detective Superintendent Barry Byford, from Suffolk police, said: “Anyone who is a victim of rape or any sexual offence can be reassured that they can and should come forward and contact us.
“All complaints are taken seriously and we continue to work with partner agencies to provide Suffolk police said they were investing in training to help officers investigate rapes.
Det Supt Byford added: “It is important to bear in mind that some of the reports recorded may have been committed several years previously and consequently this sometimes makes securing convictions even more challenging.
“We will pursue such non-recent cases vigorously and, as with all such investigations, the views and desired outcomes expressed by the victim will be central to any decisions made.
“In addition, in many cases the victim will not want to engage with the police which brings its own challenges.
“A dedicated Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) was set up in November 2011, which ensures that victims are provided with an excellent service in a caring and supportive manner.
“Investment in training, specialist teams and technology means officers are better able to identify and investigate crimes of this nature.”
•Review of rape cases
Rape trials have been in the news nationally after several collapsed at the turn of the year over problems with disclosure of evidence.
The trial of Liam Allan was stopped at Croydon Crown Court, after an officer had failed to find key evidence, including 57,000 messages between the alleged victim and Mr Allan.
Three other trials were halted within the next month, leading the CPS to review all rape cases that were being brought to court, including in Suffolk.
No problems have been found with Suffolk cases.
A CPS spokeswoman said: “We recognise that rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most complex cases prosecuted by the CPS and we have worked hard in recent years to improve how we deal with these cases.
“We have almost doubled the number of specialist prosecutors in our dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Units and improved the support we offer victims through criminal proceedings.”
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