1,500 rape offences reported in Lancashire but only 34 convictions in last year

Fewer than 40 people were convicted of rape in Lancashire last year as more than 1,500 new offences were recorded by police, new figures show, suggesting victims are rarely seeing justice done.

By Simon Drury
Friday, 24th June 2022, 9:39 am

The Government announced a new pilot court scheme last week in a bid to increase low prosecution and conviction rates across England and Wales.

The initiative means prosecutors, police officers and other staff at pilot courts in Newcastle, Leeds and Snaresbrook in London will receive specialist trauma training, with any conclusions learned rolled out across the country to increase the volume and speed of rape cases going through the system.

Rape Crisis said the courts are a step in the right direction to arrest "appalling prosecution rates" but that more information is needed on how they will work.

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Only 34 people convicted of rape last year

Ministry of Justice figures show 78 rape cases were heard in court in 2021 following investigations by Lancashire Constabulary, with 34 resulting in convictions – up from 23 in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

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But 1,567 alleged rapes were recorded by the force last year, separate Home Office data outlines, meaning only a fraction are likely to lead to a conviction.

Across England and Wales, there were 895 rape convictions – compared to 67,125 new cases.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the pilot courts, which are due to be operational in October, "will focus on improving support for victims, tackling the backlog and reducing delays".

"We’re also rolling out pre-recorded evidence faster, recruiting 1,000 sexual violence advisors, developing a 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the justice they deserve," added Mr Raab.

But Jayne Butler, chief executive of Rape Crisis, said enough is not known about how the specialist courts will work and insisted a "proper consultation with specialist sexual violence support services" is needed.

Ms Butler also highlighted how low prosecution rates have "effectively decriminalised" rape and discouraged victims from coming forward and reporting crimes.

In Lancashire, just 3.5% of the 874 rape investigations concluded by police last year led to a charge or summons.

Some 22% of cases were dropped due to evidential difficulties, despite the support of the victim and the suspect being identified, while a further 59% were dropped because the victim did not support further action.