Fewer than one per cent of recorded rapes end in conviction in West Mercia

A charity boss has warned that rape has been "effectively decriminalised" as fewer than a dozen people were convicted in West Mercia last year, while more than 1,000 new offences were recorded by police.

Figures have revealed the number of rape investigations that result in prosecution
Figures have revealed the number of rape investigations that result in prosecution

The Government announced a new pilot court scheme last week in a bid to increase low prosecution and conviction rates across England and Wales.

The initiative means prosecutors, police officers and other staff at pilot courts in Newcastle, Leeds and Snaresbrook in London will receive specialist trauma training, with any conclusions learned rolled out across the country to increase the volume and speed of rape cases going through the system.

Rape Crisis said the courts are a step in the right direction to arrest "appalling prosecution rates" but that more information is needed on how they will work.

Ministry of Justice figures show 38 rape cases were heard in court in 2021 following investigations by West Mercia Police, with 11 resulting in convictions – down from 15 in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

But 1,368 alleged rapes were recorded by the force last year, separate Home Office data outlines, meaning only a fraction are likely to lead to a conviction.

In Dyfed-Powys, 13 rape cases were heard in court in 2021, with one conviction – down from two in 2019.

It came as there were 509 alleged rapes recorded by the Dyfed-Powys force last year.

Across England and Wales, there were 895 rape convictions – compared to 67,125 new cases.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the pilot courts, which are due to be operational in October, "will focus on improving support for victims, tackling the backlog and reducing delays".

"We’re also rolling out pre-recorded evidence faster, recruiting 1,000 sexual violence advisors, developing a 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the justice they deserve," added Mr Raab.

But Jayne Butler, chief executive of Rape Crisis, said not enough is known about how the specialist courts will work and insisted a "proper consultation with specialist sexual violence support services" is needed.

Ms Butler also highlighted how low prosecution rates have "effectively decriminalised" rape and discouraged victims from coming forward and reporting crimes.

In West Mercia, just 2.1 per cent of the 934 rape investigations concluded by police last year led to a charge or summons.

Some 20 per cent of cases were dropped due to evidential difficulties, despite the support of the victim and the suspect being identified, while a further 66 per cent were dropped because the victim did not support further action.

No suspect was identified in eight per cent of cases.

Across England and Wales, just two per cent of 42,203 concluded investigations led to a prosecution.

Ms Butler said: "The vast majority of victims and survivors seeking criminal justice are being hugely let down by the system."

A spokesperson for the West Mercia Police said: "DCI Emma Whitworth, West Mercia lead for rape and serious sexual offences, emphasises the commitment from West Mercia Police to work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service on the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Joint National Action Plan to improve outcomes for victims and survivors as part of the criminal justice process.

"Partners across West Mercia are united and determined to collaborate together to listen and understand how better to support victims and survivors and give them confidence to report to the police.

"If anyone is wishing to seek help, the following support services are available:

"Axis support in Shropshire - 01743 243007 or via email isva@axiscounselling.org.uk. There is further advice and support on their website axiscounselling.org.uk.

"The Glade – 0808 178 2058 - offers a full range of services as well as advice on how to self-refer. The self-referral line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year where your call will be answered by a specially trained crisis worker. Further information is available on their website theglade.org.uk.

"If you are in immediate danger or harm call 999, or 101 if you wish to report to the police. If you feel unable to speak to a police officer in the first instance, you can report online or someone can report on your behalf westmercia.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rsa/rape-and-sexual-assault/how-to-report-rape-and-sexual-assault/."

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