Saturday, 5 June 2010

North Wales Police promises better support for rape victims

I cannot help but be somewhat skeptical as to the claims and promises made by Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Jones in this public relations plug in yesterday's Flintshire Chronicle where he states:
“Rape is a uniquely difficult crime to investigate and requires dedicated and specialist resources, so over the past year your police force has conducted a series of reviews to ensure our response to rape is right at every stage of the investigation.

“This has led to a comprehensive action plan and we are already seeing the benefits.”

I very much hope that it will be the case in future, it is not however the case at present. Over the last 6 months I have been representing a rape victim who was raped and then harrassed constantly for a number of months and even threatened with a gun. The victim received none of the services outlined in this article and she was really struggling to get any information from the Police until we made a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The complaint was thoroughly investigated and North Wales Police admitted that there had been errors in procedures and that lessons had been learnt. I very much hope that those lessons have been included in Wayne Jones's action plan.

One question that is not answered in this article is how North Wales Police are going to measure this improvement in the investigation of rape allegations? For us members of the public and interested observers it is difficult to ascertain how many allegations of rape there are in North Wales, how many are detected and how many result in convictions and imprisonment.

Now the Home Office data shows that there were 573 sexual offences in North Wales in 2008/09, but it doesn't say how many of those were rapes or how many were detected etc.

North Wales Police on the other hand produce a very detailed Monthly Information Bulletin (78 pages), in the latest edition, it shows there were 37 reported Serious Sexual Offences in 2009/10, up from 32 on the previous year. Ten of those 37 crimes were detected, up from 3 the previous year and of those 10, nine were summonsed or charged with the offence, so in 25% of this category of offence there was sufficient evidence to charge or summons.

We are however none the wiser as to how many allegations of rape there were in 2009/10. A quick scan of the Crown Prosecution Service's conviction data for the first quarter of 2009 shows that there were 23 prosecutions for SEXUAL offences with 21 of those resulting in convictions. The problem here though is comparing like with like the Police figures relate to Serious Sexual offences and CPS refer to Sexual Offences so how do we reconcile these figures.

Therefore if Wayne Jones seeks to convince us that North Wales Police will improve in its quality of rape investigations then he needs to come up with the figures for how many incidents of rape there have been in the last 12 months, how many were detected and how many successfully prosecuted in court. Until we have that information we cannot judge his claim.

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