Victims' struggle revealed as figures show less than 1% of North East rape reports lead to conviction

Less than 1% of rape complaints made to two North East police forces result in a conviction, new figures reveal.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 9:01 am
Northumbria of Victims' Commissioner Vera Baird QC, who has warned the criminal justice system is putting more people at risk by "failing to tackle potential serial rapists". Photo credit should read: Northumbria PCC/PA Wire

The horrific struggle victims of sexual violence face to get justice has been revealed by nation-wide analysis by the Rape Monitoring Group.

Former Northumbria Police Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird says the criminal justice system is putting more people at risk by ‘failing to tackle potential serial rapists’.

So what is the overall outlook for England and Wales?

Less than 1% of rape reports lead to conviction

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The new data, which covers all of England and Wales, shows the overall number of rapes reported to police rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017/18, compared with 41,186 the previous year.

Despite the rise, the number of cases which resulted in a suspect being charged dropped from 6.8% to 4.2%, according to data recorded by public bodies which has been gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group (RMG) and published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The number of cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision has fallen slightly, from 6,606 to 6,012.

And fewer suspects were convicted after admitting the offence or being found guilty by a jury - 1,062 compared with 1,350 the previous year.

What are the figures like for the North East of England?

The data reveals the shocking reality for victims in the region who find the strength to report attacks to police.

In two police forces, less than 1% of rape reports lead to conviction.

According to data by the Ministry of Justice, 1,714 rape complaints were made to Northumbria Police in 2017/18 – with lead to 15 guilty convictions in court.

In Durham Constabulary area, just six rapists were convicted out of 623 rape reports in the same time period.

While Cleveland Police received 637 reports which have resulted in 20 convictions – that’s 3%.

Females over the age of 16 make up the majority of reports, but the figures also include hundreds of rapes against men and children.

What has Dame Vera Baird said about the issue?

Dame Vera, Victims' Commissioner, said the Government needs to "act quickly" in its review of how rape complaints are handled to make sure victims receive "the justice they deserve".

"The criminal justice system is letting down current victims and creating new victims by failing to tackle potential serial rapists," she said.

"Rape victims are being badly let down by the criminal justice system. More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases is resulting in a conviction. How can this be justice?

"These figures show that perpetrators can act without fear of being held to account. Many will go on to commit further offences and will only stop when caught.

"These figures not only highlight how we are letting down existing victims, but how we are creating future victims.”

What have the police forces said?

Northumbria Police's Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Bacon, who is responsible for the Force’s Safeguarding Department, said: "As a Force we are committed to making sure everyone who reports a sexual offence receives the highest level of service. “I want to assure the communities we serve that our officers take every report extremely seriously. "Anyone reporting such crimes to Northumbria Police can be confident they will be listened to and offered the specialist help and support they need. “Our dedicated teams will also carry out a thorough and professional investigation and do all we can to bring offenders to justice. “The fact we are seeing a rise in the number of such offences being reported to police represents an increase in confidence for victims to come forward, which should be seen as a positive. I would encourage anyone who has been subjected to such a crime to come forward. “We are also committed to working with the Crown Prosecution Service and our other criminal justice partners to look at how we bring cases to court.”

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “We take all allegations of rape extremely seriously, and as such have robust systems in place to ensure that every offence is recorded correctly and fully investigated to provide justice for victims.

“Through our robust scrutiny we capture every possible victim of rape and ensure the highest standard of investigation is launched.

“We would urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of this type of offence to come forward and speak to us. We will ensure all victims and survivors get the help and support they need, and that any perpetrators are investigated and brought to justice.

“Call us on 101, or 999 if you are in immediate danger.”

Detective Superintendent Tariq Ali, Head of CID at Cleveland Police , said: “In the last five years we have seen an increase in the number of rapes recorded.

“Our outcomes for this time period are similar to neighbouring Forces with around 3 per cent of recorded rapes resulting in a charge.

“This reflects that victims withdrew their support for prosecution in around 45 per cent of instances and around 24 per cent of recorded rapes were not progressed due to evidential difficulties. At the end of 2017/18, 126 of the recorded rapes were still being investigated.

“This data shows more victims feel able to come forward but we know we must continue to do all we can to detect and bring rape cases to court.

“We recognise that rape is a devastating crime which affects all aspects of a victim’s life. We work closely with partner agencies to make sure victims feel able to speak to police and know we will deal with any reports sensitively and work with them to build the strongest case possible for court.”

Out of the cases sent to the CPS, how many suspects are charged?

In the North East, out of 317 rape cases sent to the CPS. The decision was made not to charge 166 suspects – meaning that less than half of cases sent to the CPS lead to a suspect being charged.

What has the CPS said?

A CPS Spokesperson said: “Through the work of our dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RaSSO) Unit, CPS North East works closely with our partners across the Criminal Justice System to continually improve the service that we provide to victims of sexual offences.

“In rape cases, as in all criminal cases, charging decisions are made in strict accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. We will authorise criminal charges where there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and when it is in the public interest to do so.”