More than 200 people reported a rape to Northamptonshire Police in 2011/12 but there were only 25 successful convictions.
There were 3,338 allegations of rape and sexual assault made to the police between 2005-06 and 2011-12 and yet only 435 went to court, resulting in 270 guilty verdicts.
The issue of the police’s handling of sex crimes has come to the fore after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published a report criticising the work of Southwark Sapphire Squad, a sex crime unit based in south London, this week. Commenting on the report, Labour’s home affairs spokesman Stella Creasey said: “This makes a strong case for a central body to support police forces across the country working in this highly specialised field - monitoring performance and victims’ experience from reporting to prosecution.”
Official figures show that in 2005-06 159 people reported a rape to Northamptonshire Police. This rose to 247 in 2011-12. Detective Chief Inspector Steve Lingley, of Northamptonshire Police’s Protecting Vulnerable Persons unit, said: “The increase in the number of recorded rapes can be attributed to the introduction of Serenity, the county’s sexual assault referral centre, three years ago.
“Where these centres have been introduced across the country the number of recorded rapes and sexual offences has risen and this reflects confidence in reporting and the level of multi-agency support now available to victims.
“The multi-agency policy during the last year, and for the 12 months ahead, is that police are working with partners to encourage victims of sexual offences to come forward. So we are asking for a rise in reports and we understand this rise, as it underpins our strategy of putting victims at the very heart of what we are doing.
“The level of support we are now able to offer rape victims has resulted in Northamptonshire having one of the lowest attrition rates for rapes in the country.”
Glynis Bliss, the manager of the Serenity, said: “About 85 per cent of people who come here are referred by the police, the rest are self-referrals. We talk to people about the different options available to them, and about half report it to the police, and half don’t for a variety of reasons.
“The police have really upped their game and deal with it very sensitively and have officers trained specifically to deal with it. They do treat victims very well and start from the basis of believing them.
“One major element why people don’t report rape is because they are worried and frightened about going to court and giving evidence. It is undoubtedly a difficult process to go through and we support them. The more they understand about the process, the more they can cope and come through it, which gives them closure.
“We know that nationally rape is under-reported by about 80 per cent so we’re trying to raise awareness of self-referral and make professionals such as GPs and social workers more aware of what we do. We’re also trying to make men realise that the service is there for them too, a lot of work needs to be done to encourage men to report a sexual assault.”
Ann Bosworth, the chief executive of the county’s Women’s Aid, said: “It is such an emotive subject but I think the time frame from reporting through to it going to court is quite significant. For the victim it can be too painful to continue with the process. There are so many facets as to why cases don’t get to court.”