RAPE conviction figures have sparked concern in Warwickshire.
A new analysis has shown Warwickshire has the lowest rape conviction rate in England and Wales. The figures have sparked calls for an inquiry from Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western.
The Labour Party’s analysis of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data revealed just under half of rape prosecutions in Warwickshire led to convictions over the past year – the lowest rate of any county in England and Wales.
Neighbouring Gloucestershire ranked highest with close to 95 per cent conviction rates.
And the MP is urging Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe, to launch an urgent inquiry and take action to improve rates as quickly as possible.
Though Mr Western acknowledged the demographics of a region – such as population density – will have an impact on the number of crimes, he said it did not explain what he called a ‘postcode lottery for justice’ when it came to rape.
Of 15 rape prosecutions pursued by Warwickshire Police over the last year, only seven cases resulted in convictions.
In Gloucestershire, 17 of 18 cases resulted in a conviction while Wiltshire managed to convict just over 70 per cent of defendants – despite having a significantly smaller population than Warwickshire.
Meanwhile, Humberside, whose population was double that of Warwickshire, saw 48 prosecutions result in 40 convictions.
Mr Western added: “Whatever the reason rates are so low, these figures will understandably concern the public.
“It is unacceptable that your postcode can determine the chances of bringing to justice the perpetrators of such an awful crime.
“Labour has quite rightly called on the government to adopt its proposals to fast-track rape and sexual violence cases through courts and offer more help to victims.
“Taking action on rape and sexual violence needs to become a priority not just in Warwickshire but also on a national level – as we cannot carry on failing victims.
“We need justice for victims to be a guarantee not subject to a 50/50 (or lower) probability.”
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe agreed the latest figures for Warwickshire were disappointing and said a review into rape prosecutions locally was already underway.
He explained: “Improving how the police and the wider criminal justice system responds to all aspects of violence against women and girls will be one of the major themes of my forthcoming Police and Crime Plan.
“I want to see improvements not only in the numbers of convictions at court but also in the numbers of cases put before the courts, with more victims having the confidence to come forward and have their voices heard.
“There is already an ongoing process between the police and Crown Prosecution Service to review rape prosecutions locally, while at the national level the recent cross-government review has established all criminal justice agencies need to do better at both investigating and prosecuting rape. I do not believe any further form of inquiry in Warwickshire is needed and would risk delaying the ongoing processes of reform.
“A wealth of work is ongoing to improve conviction rates for rape and sexual offences and to provide a better overall service for victims. At a local level, the Warwickshire Violence Against Women and Girls Board has created a sub group to steer the multi-agency response into these offences.
“I’ve also funded a variety of services to support victims of rape and serious sexual assault and have been able to successfully passport additional funding from the Ministry of Justice to local organisations working with victims and survivors.
“Ultimately, I want to provide the reassurance for anyone who is a victim of rape or sexual assault that police will investigate thoroughly and agencies will work together to bring offenders to justice, with high-quality help and support readily available to support you through the justice process and your recovery.”