Just a fraction of rape cases in Thames Valley end in a charge

Police dropped 1,608 cases last year due to problems gathering evidence

Friday, 30th July 2021, 11:11 am
Updated Friday, 30th July 2021, 11:12 am

New figures reveal that just 112 (six per cent) of 1,790 rape cases where the alleged victim was female, resulted in a charge or summons last year.

Thames Valley Police dropped 1,608 investigations (90%) due to difficulties gathering evidence and 45 cases (3%) because a suspect could not be identified.

Low charge rates are seen across reports of sexual offences as a whole – Thames Valley Police charged a suspect in a sex offence case 465 times in 2020-21, equating to just 9% investigations closed over the period.

A new police initiative aims at improving conviction rates in rape and other sex offences against women and girls

The Home Office figures were released as the Government launched a new strategy aimed at tackling violence against women and girls, which includes prevention and improving the criminal justice response to offences that disproportionately affect women, such as rape and harassment.

A consultation into the plan was reopened following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in London earlier this year, which reignited a national debate around women's safety.

The new VAWG strategy is published against a backdrop of poor conviction rates for rape nationally, despite the number of reported incidents on the rise.

Although these figures include offences against both men and women, separate data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in the majority of recorded sexual offences nationally, the victim is female.

The Victim's Commissioner Vera Baird slammed the "shameful" record, which she branded a "decriminalisation of rape".

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently apologised to rape victims across the country for the trauma and delays they have faced in securing justice, as the Government published its end-to-end rape review to tackle a decreasing conviction rate.

The review sought to identify why victims withdraw from the criminal justice process, why prosecutions have collapsed and the impact on victims.

Across England and Wales, 2,742 rape reports to police forces by women ended with a suspect being charged or summoned to court in 2020-21 – just 5.3% of the 51,667 investigations assigned an outcome last year.

The measures set to be introduced by the Government's VAWG strategy include a 24/7 rape and sexual assault helpline, a review of the management of registered sex offenders and a £5 million Safety of Women at Night fund.

The Government has also said it will not rule out making public street harassment, such as wolf whistling and cat-calling, a specific crime.

The Home Office figures show few harassment crimes reported to Thames Valley Police resulted in a charge or summons last year – 446 (8%) of 5,691 concluded investigations.

That was higher than the average across England and Wales, where just 6.5% of harassment investigations saw someone charged or summoned to court.

These figures include all types of harassment incidents reported by men and women, including any that may have occurred online.

Charity Victim Support said only a societal change will end crimes against women.

Rachel Almeida said: “It is vital there is a shift from the victim blaming culture and poor police treatment for victims that has contributed to dismal justice outcomes for the majority of survivors.

“Much more needs to be done to address the epidemic of offending against women and girls.”

Maya Tutton, who founded the campaign Our Streets Now with her younger sister Gemma, to end public sexual harassment, said including the crime in the strategy was a “massive wake-up call” to society about the scale of the problem.

“Every day that goes by with action not being taken sees another young girl being harassed in the street," she said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I am determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve."

She added the strategy "will deliver real and lasting change".

Responding to the figures, a Thames Valley Police spokesman reassured the public that the force takes all reports of rape and sexual assault extremely seriously.

"We remain committed to preventing and detecting offences of this nature and would always encourage victims to come forward, where they will receive specialist support and will be treated with sensitivity and compassion," a TVP spokesman said.

“Any reported offence will be thoroughly investigated, and we will always do everything possible to identify those responsible and take the most appropriate action against them.

“Thames Valley police welcome the recent Government Rape Review and HMICFRS report will be reviewing all of the recommendations and working with partners to ensure that we provide excellent levels of victim care and high quality investigations.

“We would encourage all victims of sexual offences to report these by calling Thames Valley Police on 101, or if you are in immediate danger, calling 999.

“There is also further information on our website of how to report and resources for victims of sexual offences and rape.”