After data from the Home Office suggested Wiltshire Police was the worst force in the country for prosecuting rape cases, figures obtained by The Journal figures confirm that data was actually underreported.

The force made national news last month when The Telegraph reported that Wiltshire was the “worst performing police force” for rape cases.

Data from the Home Office, analysed by Gavin Hales, Senior Associate Fellow at The Police Foundation, found that Wiltshire was the force with the lowest rape conviction rates in England and Wales, with only 0.7 per cent of rape cases ending in a charge or summons during the three years from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Read more: Wiltshire Police worst force for prosecuting rape, according to Home Office

Durham was the most successful force, according to the Home Office, with 7.1 per cent of rapes resulting in a charge in the same period.

However, Wiltshire Police argued that their figures are underreported to the Home Office due to the method they use to submit data – Wiltshire being one of three forces in the country to report crime outcomes manually.

Now, the response to our Freedom of Information request reveals that the figure for Wiltshire is closer to three per cent, which is around the national average.

We asked Wiltshire Police for the percentage of rape cases they dealt with that ended in a charge or summons.

In 2018, this figure was 3.2 per cent.

In 2019, it was 5.2 per cent.

In 2020, it was 2.9 per cent.

In 2021, as of October 21, the figure was at 3.5 per cent.

Always report offences, police urge

Wiltshire Police have responded to the data by explaining that this is a national issue.

A spokesperson said that they take reports of rape and sexual assault “incredibly seriously”, and want the community to have “complete confidence” in reporting these types of offences.

The force accepts that the figures “do not paint a reassuring picture”, but emphasise that they are being proactive in making improvements.

“We have been working closely with our colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service to improve our joint response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) and now have a tri-force Wessex RASSO Action Plan in place,” the spokesperson said.

“This has seen the introduction of a range of measures with a greater focus on improving the service we provide for victims and increasing the likelihood the perpetrator will be brought to justice.

“We have recruited extra specialist staff to ensure victims are supported throughout the whole process and all RASSO cases are investigated by specially-trained detectives.

“In addition, all cases are prosecuted by specialist lawyers who are trained to understand the challenges that are often associated with such cases.

“We are already seeing the benefits of this approach and we are hopeful that this will be reflected in future data. We are seeing more cases referred to CPS more quickly.

“We are also increasing the number of perpetrators being charged and prosecuted.”

The spokesperson added that while the low figures cannot be drastically improved overnight, the police want the changes to be a “sustained, long-term action plan that makes a real difference”.

Wiltshire Police urges victims of rape and sexual assault to report offences, no matter how long ago they occurred, so they can be fully investigated.

Victims can call 101, or 999 in an emergency, or the Swindon and Wiltshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 01793 781916.

Victims deserve better, says PCC

Wiltshire's Police and Crime Commissioner has said victims of rape and sexual assault deserve better, after a Channel 4 documentary showed the impact the crimes have on a person’s life.

Philip Wilkinson thanked the victims for their courage in letting their stories be aired during this week's Dispatches: Rape - Who’s on Trial?

The documentary followed Avon and Somerset Police detectives as they investigated reports of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) from five women – each in different circumstances.

Alongside the investigative approach, the programme highlighted the victims’ stories and emotional trauma, from the initial shock of an incident to hearing whether someone would be charged with an offence or the outcome of a prosecution.

Mr Wilkinson said seeing it was important for the public to see the impact and it was shocking to watch.

“It was clear to me all those victims wanted was to be heard, listened to, believed and then wanted justice for what had happened to them – is that really so hard for us in the criminal justice system to deliver?” he said.

“Last night, those victims were from another force area but the emotional impact, and their experiences, will not be any different to victims across the country – including in our own county.

“It is important that we acknowledge how we deal with victims all the way through the process has a direct correlation with how they heal and begin to process what has happened to them.

“We must not treat a victim like they are at fault, we must ensure investigations and charging decisions are carried out in a timely manner and we must work together in the wider criminal justice system to try and get cases to court more quickly.

“If we can start to make improvements in those areas, I really believe victims will start to feel more empowered and have more confidence in the system. That can only be a good thing.

“I have said it before, and I will continue to say it, victims of rape and sexual assault deserve better.”

Mr Wilkinson has already admitted that more needs to be done in Wiltshire when it comes to dealing with these crimes.

He added: “While Wiltshire’s figure has improved over 12 months and is higher than the national picture – I accept it isn’t good enough - and I will ensure enough resources and capability is available to Wiltshire Police to continue to improve these detections.

“As far as I am concerned, one crime is too many, one victim is too many.

“Nationally, those figures are appallingly low and this paints a rather dim picture. Victims deserve better from police forces and from the wider criminal justice system. I am determined this will change.

“I, alongside my fellow PCCs in Dorset and Hampshire, have commissioned an external, independent, review to drive improvements where they are needed in the criminal justice system, and beyond: looking at better services for victims, better training for professionals and better outcomes for victims too.

“Work to address the public’s concerns around violence against women and girls, alongside rape and serious sexual assault, will be a key feature of my new Police and Crime Plan. It will provide a joined-up approach, leadership and policing direction for the force over the next four years.

“I plan to work with the force to track every single rape case reported to them to provide that oversight. Together we will work to make Wiltshire safer.”

Help is available for victims of rape or serious sexual assault – you do not have to report a crime to get support as a victim.

All information can be found here:

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