Criminal justice system is failing victims of crime across the Thames Valley, which includes Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, Banbury, Thame and Buckingham, meeting hears

Victims of crime – including rape – are being let down by failings across the criminal justice system, a meeting heard.

Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel heard that the system is creaking for a number of reasons, including a 70 per cent rise in the failure of police or prosecutors to disclose evidence to the defence.

Thames Valley Police chief constable John Campbell

Thames Valley Police chief constable John Campbell

The panel, which includes councillors from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, met in Aylesbury on Friday to probe why the number of convictions / prosecutions has reduced, despite rising crime.

The meeting was told that the number of recorded crimes across Thames Valley leapt from 138,000 to 149,000 between 2017 and 2018.

But the number of offenders taken to court had fallen from 17,000 to 14,000 in the same period.

Even the number of cases dealt with in other ways by police, including cautions, dropped from 7,500 to 5,000.

Issues include:

> Rape victims across the country have been dropping their own cases after learning that they would have to provide all the data from their mobile phones.

Cllr David Rouane (Lib Dem, Didcot North East) asked: “What can you say to reassure victims that they won’t have to reveal all their phone data?”

Chief constable John Campbell said: “It is a challenge for us all. We are working collectively with our partners but there are some challenges.”

After the meeting he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that police officers are concentrating on building up trust and confidence among victims so that they continue to get to a result.

> Lack of police numbers and training.

Mr Campbell said: “We have some work to do to increase the quality of our crime investigations.” The force has carried out ‘root and branch reviews’ and was increasing the number of its investigators.

“In the last five weeks our ‘positive outcomes’ have gone up. I hope it is a trend – we need to keep an eye on that.”

> Witnesses and victims giving up at having to travel long distances to court hearings, which may be cancelled after defence lawyers raise objections.

Milton Keynes Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) said: “We do not have a crown court, they are in Aylesbury, Reading and Oxford. We have a magistrates’ court but when they commit to crown court, people have to go to Huntingdon or Luton.

“It is a terrible journey for witnesses and victims to have to make. It is an anathema that we do not have a crown court.”

Cases have been collapsing due to poor quality of evidence.

The meeting was told that the police have new systems to manage the evidence they need to produce.

Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld told the meeting that an influx of new officers in the next few years should help catch more offenders.