Reports of rape have risen by 30 per cent in Sussex but the proportion of cases which make it to court has fallen.
That is according to a newly-released figures which show 1,381 rape reports were recorded in Sussex in the 12 months before March 2018 – an increase of 325 from the 2016/2017 figure.
But the charge rate to reported incidents is down to five per cent compared to 13 per cent the year before.
There has also been a rise in other sexual offences and the abuse of both vulnerable children and adults.
Sussex Police says this rise, recorded by the national Rape Monitoring Group, is in line with other forces across the country and is partly due to victims becoming “increasingly confident to come forward”.
The force says it is adding more officers to its specialist safeguarding investigation units across the county in response to this.
But the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne said she is “deeply disappointed” and concerned the proportion of reports leading to Crown Prosection Service decisions to charge has fallen.
Nationally, the overall charge rate for rape has decreased from 6.8 per cent to 4.2 per cent, and the number of suspects found guilty of rape decreased from 1,350 to 1,062.
She said: “Whilst the increases in Sussex are mirrored in other counties and probably do reflect increasing confidence by victims to report rape, I am deeply disappointed and concerned the proportion of reports leading to Crown Prosecution Service decisions to charge, has actually fallen.
“Those who take the brave and often life-changing decision to come forward to police to report rape and sexual assault should, at the very least, expect that every reasonable effort will be made to bring perpetrators to justice.”
“I will be pushing for a more co-ordinated, whole-systems approach to criminal justice. More than ever, we need all partners to share data so that we can be absolutely transparent and more certain about where the system is failing victims.”
The PCC said she will be pushing for a “more co-ordinated, whole-systems approach” to criminal justice, involving sharing data and being “absolutely transparent about where the system is failing victims”.
Sussex Police says it now has a dedicated detective inspector working with the Crown Prosecution Service to improve outcomes for victims.
Meanwhile the training and deployment of 24 sexual offence investigation trained (SOIT) police officers and staff is being paid for by the additional funding secured by the PCC.
Assistant chief constable Julia Chapman said: “Sussex, like every other force in the country continues to experience increases in reports of rape, as well as other sexual offences and the abuse of both children and vulnerable adults, as victims become increasingly confident to come forward and report incidents, many of which are non-recent.
“We welcome the publication of this annual data as evidence of the continued focus by all agencies on the issue of rape and other serious sexual offences. The number of reports continues to increase year on year and cases can be very complex, requiring careful and sensitive work with victims and support agencies.”
The assistant chief constable said each case must reach a required evidential standard to be considered for potential prosecution.
She said: “Even where prosecution is not possible, reporting enables us to help ensure the person involved has access to safeguarding and the sources of independent and confidential advice and support that are right for them.
“We also monitor the proportion of rape offences relating to domestic abuse and how many of the reports are non-recent reports for children and adults. We have recognised the link between domestic and sexual violence and the needs of children within that context, whether or not they are specifically victims in their own right.
“That is why we have developed our current approach to the way we investigate sexual offences that ensures that we take an integrated approach to safeguarding those children and adults who are vulnerable and at risk.”
If you have been sexually assaulted or know someone who has, you can contact police at any time via 999 in an emergency, or online or by calling 101, and arranging to talk in confidence to specially trained investigators.
See the national Rape Monitoring Group data here
If you need further help or support, go to:
• The Brighton and Hove Safe in the City website
• The Safe in East Sussex website or call 01293 600469
• The Survivors’ Network website or call the Helpline on 01273 720110
• The Life Centre website or phone 0844 847 7879 (adults) and 0808 802 0808 (under 18s)