85% of rape investigations dropped in Bedfordshire due to lack of evidence, figures reveal
A staggering 85% of rape investigations were dropped in Bedfordshire over a five month period last year, due to lack of evidence.
Home Office data shows that of the 340 rape investigations closed by Bedfordshire Police between April and September last year, 85% were dropped due to problems gathering evidence.
In most of those cases, police said that the alleged victim no longer supported the investigation. A suspect had already been identified in 62% of these cases.
Men made far fewer allegations than women – 36 compared to 304 – but were less likely to drop their cases.
The figures also show that just 7% of rape cases closed by Bedfordshire Police in that period resulted in a charge or summons.
Charity Rape Crisis and the Criminal Bar Association say lengthy delays within the criminal justice system contribute to the problem, which has been made worse by court delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Rape Crisis spokeswoman said: “It wasn’t uncommon pre-pandemic for survivors to have to wait two years or more between reporting and their case reaching court.
"That is a very long time to effectively have to keep the memory of what might have been the most traumatic experience of a person’s life to date at the forefront of their thoughts."
Despite the bleak statistics, Bedfordshire Police is not alone among UK forces struggling to bring about prosecutions for rape. Neighbouring Herts Constabulary and Cambridge Constabulary both recorded 88% cases dropped over the same five month period from April to September 2020, while the Met Police recorded a similar 86%.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dee Perkins, Bedfordshire Police’s head of crime, said: “We understand the emotional trauma that can be involved in rape and serious sexual offences cases.
"This, along with the length of time it can take to get to court, means we do face some difficulties in keeping victims involved in the investigation process.
“To address the considerable challenges we faced around the performance of rape and serious sexual assault investigations, twelve months ago, we implemented a Gold group with the purpose of understanding the current blockers and barriers to performance and more importantly, how we can improve our victim service and care.
“We have a team of officers who receive specific training to ensure victim care and welfare is prioritised at the start of the initial investigation, and based on a successful model that’s been operating for some time within our domestic abuse team, we can now also offer the support of victim engagement officers. [They] help with the non-investigative aspects of a case, and to ensure continuity of contact with the victim throughout.
“We have a detective inspector who works as liaison officer between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to oversee and manage any issues or barriers that may occur during investigations, that could impact a case.
"Improved partnership working means more cases can be resolved in a timely manner, and this has been reflected in our rise of positive outcomes for victims of rape and serious sexual assault cases, and has seen our efficiencies increase.
“We continue to strive to improve the outcomes for victims of rape and sexual offences, and would say to anyone who has experienced something, no matter when it occurred, to come forward. We will believe you, we will listen and we can investigate and help you get the support and help you need.
“This robust drive to place the victim at the heart of what we do has seen considerable strides made in the investigation of rape and serious sexual assault offences in Bedfordshire. Our solved outcome rate has greatly improved - seeing Bedfordshire Police move from 33rd to sixth nationally for rape, and four nationally for serious sexual offences.
"Having seen such an improvement, we have today decided to stand this Gold group down and monitor continued progress and development through daily business.”