Rape reporting increases

ONLY six per cent of reported rapes in Suffolk result in a conviction, it emerged today.

SUFFOLK'S rape conviction rate has increased it has been revealed - but only six per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction.

The figure has been released by campaign group The Fawcett Society and shows that of the 201 reported rapes in Suffolk in 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, just 39 resulted in a prosecution and only 12 in conviction.

Suffolk's rate of six per cent is in line with the national average - and a significant rise on the 1.6pc reported two years earlier when the county's force was ranked as the second-worst in terms of securing convictions.

However, the county's performance has been dented by a number of rapes reported recently which turned out to be false alarms.

Today, the constabulary was praised for the increase - but experts warned more improvements were necessary.

Dr Nicole Westmarland, chair of Rape Crisis in England and Wales, claimed low conviction rates discouraged women from reporting the crime.

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Nationally, only 15 per cent of rape victims inform police, while more than two-thirds of those complaints do not even make it to court.

Dr Westmarland said: “It's a very positive move that Suffolk has gone from being one of the worst to becoming average.

“Clearly though, some forces are far better, like Cleveland which reported double the rate seen in Suffolk.

“We think there are big problems with the system and that such small conviction rates instill a lack of confidence in terms of women's likelihood to report a rape.”

Dr Westmarland's words come after it was revealed that Suffolk Constabulary is one of only five police forces set to miss out on a bold initiative to increase rape conviction rates in England and Wales.

The government-sponsored trial programmes will be piloted in 38 of the 43 police force areas - but not in Suffolk.

The scheme will involve the introduction of specialist Home Office sexual violence advisers who will assist officers in dealing with rape enquiries and supporting victims.

The setback follows soon after the alleged rape of an 18-year-old in Ipswich in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A dedicated incident room has now been set up by detectives to trace the men who attacked the girl after she accepted a lift from them when she got separated from her friends on a night out. She said she was driven to a secluded car park where she was raped by two of the men.

Meanwhile, Suffolk police are also investigating the rape of a 17-year-old in Sudbury and the alleged abduction and sexual assault of a 21-year-old woman in Brandon. Robert English of Fiddlewood Road, Norwich has been charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment and two charges of rape and will next appear at Ipswich Crown Court on September 12.

Home Office under secretary Vernon Coaker said rape was one of the most serious and devastating crimes.

He added: “We know that it remains under-reported and we are determined to improve this and increase the conviction rate.”

Why are rape conviction rates so low? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

SUFFOLK police today said the investigation of serious sexual offences was often a “complex and challenging area”.

A spokesman said: “This has been recognised nationally and the Home Office is supporting a number of initiatives to seek to improve overall performance in this area.

“Locally, Suffolk Constabulary is working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to enhance both detection and conviction rates.

“This includes providing consultation with a specialist CPS lawyer at an early stage of the investigation.

“We are committed to providing expert care and support to victims of serious sexual offences, including access to specialist facilities and staff for victims at Victim Care Centres.

“Suffolk remains one of the safest places to live in the country. We take all allegations of a sexual offence seriously and all are subject of a significant investigation.

“We will continue to vigorously seek to prosecute offenders when they commit such serious offences.”

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