The Government has just produced a shocking report, which showed in the last five years a significant decline in the number of charges and prosecutions for rape cases and, consequently, fewer convictions.
Every year there are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape, yet less than 20% of those attacked report it to the police. And of those, only 1.6% result in someone being charged, which means that considerably less than one in every 100 rapes actually leads to justice for the victim. We clearly need to improve on these figures which are a national scandal.
Rape and sexual violence are horrific crimes that can have a devastating impact on victims for the rest of their lives. Those who take the brave step of reporting it are forced to relive a deep and personal trauma but they do so in the interests of justice and protecting others. They deserve to have their cases investigated professionally, diligently and with empathy with all the support available. But in too many cases this is not happening.
In Gloucestershire, the Constabulary has the second highest conviction rate in the country but the national figures are so low that we still need to significantly improve our performance.
Overall, the low prosecution rate in these cases is not, as some have claimed, because people are making bogus allegations. But if previous Home Office research suggesting up to 3% of rape allegations are false is accurate, then 97% are true. The reality is, in almost all cases, if someone says they have been raped, they have not made it up, which makes the current situation all the more unacceptable and I will make this one of my priorities within my Police and Crime Plan, which will go out for consultation soon.
I also intend to bid for extra Government money within the Safer Streets initiative and plan to make a strong bid for Phase 3 funding, which will be focussed on finding innovative ways to reduce violence against women and girls.
One idea that I like is the Hollie Guard Extra app, which helps the user seek immediate help if they are being stalked, harassed or domestically abused.
My team will be working hard over the coming months to do all they can to introduce a range of initiatives, including 450 more officers that will protect people from sexual assault and bring more offenders to justice.