Suffolk: Four in five sex crimes go unsolved, figures reveal

Burglary at Palmerston Road, Ipswich

Burglary at Palmerston Road, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

VICTIMS of rape and sex crimes are losing faith in the justice system, it was claimed last night, after it was revealed four in five sex crimes go unsolved.

Officers solved just one in five – 20% – of the 540 serious sexual offences recorded in Suffolk in 2012/13, a fall from nearly 30% in 2010/11, a police report showed.

Just 18.8% of the 202 rape crimes in 2012/13 were solved, the report shows. It ranked the force as the fourth worst in England and Wales.

The rate fell despite a drop in the number of serious sex offences. There were 586 in 2009/10, 559 in 2010/11, and 589 in 2011/12.

The news follows Suffolk Police’s admission that five sex offenders are missing from the county’s Sex Offenders’ Register – which rose from 489 in 2009/10 to 584 in 2011/12.

We previously revealed 58 cautions were handed out to sex offenders between 2010 and 2012, as were 10 reprimands and 21 warnings.

Sex crime campaigners insisted justice is not being done, arguing victims are at risk of further attacks with their offenders, the majority of whom they know, free to walk the streets.

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Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore admitted the force needs to improve its rate of solving sex crimes – but maintained the force’s performance has not deteriorated, adding the budget was not to blame.

“Victims must not lose confidence in the justice system,” he said. “The constabulary is in no way complacent about this issue. We are not satisfied with our performance. Rapists need to be held to account.”

Police chiefs discussed the strategic performance health check report at an accountability and performance panel meeting last Tuesday night.

Mr Passmore said the force would be reviewing its crime action plan, indicating more resources may be required.

But he joined the report in highlighting the way Suffolk Police records sex crimes.

Wiltshire Police, the best-performing force with 45% of serious sexual offences solved, does not record sex crime if the victim withdraws their complaint within 72 hours.

“Suffolk’s stance is different with all crimes being recorded as soon as possible, where there is prima facie evidence that an offence occurred,” the report said.

Mr Passmore said: “People will think other forces are better, but we record everything. I am not convinced other forces record the whole crime.” He added he has raised his concerns with Home Secretary Theresa May.

But Cath Elliott, volunteer co-ordinator at Suffolk Rape Crisis, said: “The justice system is failing victims of sex crimes. One out of five sex crimes being solved is not good enough.

“Why would a sex crime victim want to go through such a traumatic process when the police aren’t going to get anywhere with it?”

Det Supt Stuart Sedgwick, of Suffolk Police, said: “We would like to assure everyone that we take reports of this nature very seriously and will provide support to victims throughout the investigation and beyond.”

Victims are urged to call Suffolk Rape Crisis from 7-9pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays on 0800 0850 520.