VITAL evidence in rape and sexual assault cases has not been withheld from defence lawyers in Wiltshire, a report from the Crown Prosecution Service has revealed.

The report shows that across England and Wales, vital evidence was held back from defence lawyers in 47 cases of rape and sexual assault.

But the report said none of these disclosure failings took place in Wessex, the region covering Wiltshire Police.

Detective Superintendent Jeremy Carter, the force's lead for rape and sexual offences, said the report shows that "Wiltshire Police methods are working".

He said: “We have already been on the front foot with this issue, putting measures in place to ensure we compile the very strongest cases when it comes to reports of rape and sexual assault.

“This has included working with a former CPS lawyer that specialises in these types of offences, who has been providing us with guidance and support to make sure we are improving our conviction rates."

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson said: “In recent years, Wiltshire Police has done lots of work in raising awareness and increasing public confidence when reporting crime, but it is of paramount importance that investigations are carried out in a timely, balanced manner and it is fundamental that any evidence which may undermine the prosecution’s case is shared with defence lawyers.

“People must have the confidence to talk to police and know that they will be listened to, but the police also have a duty to investigate any complaint fairly and rigorously.

“It is reassuring to see that Wessex was not identified as having any disclosure failings as part of this review."

For the past year, Wiltshire Police has had a dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence tactical lead and has also appointed a former CPS lawyer to ensure the integrity and quality of sexual offence investigations being sent to the CPS in order to improve conviction rates in cases sent to court.