JUST eight per cent of alleged rapes reported to Avon and Somerset Police are leading to charges being brought - although this was double the rate for the previous year.

Speaking at a performance and accountability board meeting, Chief Constable Sarah Crew said it was ‘not enough, we know, but a doubling nevertheless’.

In the 12 months to April, 2023, Ms Crew said the police force brought 141 rape charges, more than double the 69 in the same period the year before.

Ms Crew said: “We are now in the top quartile for positive outcome rates for rape and serious sexual offences having been previously bottom quartile 24 months ago.

“And for the latest quarter’s results, July to September, 2022, on the national criminal justice scorecard we had the third highest adult rape charge in the country.”

However, the number of sexual offences and domestic abuse crimes recorded across the past year had gone down.  

Police and Crime Commissioner’s performance and accountability director Sally Fox said: “This could be due to proactive and preventative work undertaken, but this decline could also be caused by loss of confidence in the police which is deterring victims from reporting.

“What are you doing to ensure that victims of these types of crimes will continue to report to Avon and Somerset police?”

Ms Crew said: “Increasing trust and confidence is our top priority as an organisation.

“There is much work ongoing about culture, leadership, transparency.

“But male violence against women and girls accounts for a quarter of all recorded crime, so if we are going to increase trust and confidence we cannot do it without effectively tackling and addressing this area effectively.”

Ms Crew is also the National Police Chiefs’ lead for adult sex offences, and the constabulary ran a pilot for a new way of tackling rape cases in early 2021 named Operation Sortia Bluestone.

The new approach is now being rolled out in police forces across the country.

The operation saw a specialist rape investigation team created, improved collaboration with victim support services, and a focus on perpetrator behaviour rather than on the credibility of victims.

Ms Crew said: “We believe what we are learning from Soteria Bluestone has the potential to improve our response to all male violence against women and girls.

“The dynamics are the same and, actually, the problems in rape that we are starting to overcome are the most difficult.”

Nearly 2,000 Avon and Somerset Police frontline professionals have also gone through a ‘domestic abuse matters’ programme delivered by Chief Insp Sharon Baker and the charity Safelives.

Ms Crew said it meant officers would be able to complete domestic violence risk assessments ‘with a full understanding of the dynamics’.

She said: “Combined with the DA Matters programme I believe we can really inspire women and girls, and indeed men and boys, who suffer these issues to come forward to report, have confidence that they can access both criminal justice in terms of outcome but procedural justice to feel that they have been listened to, involved, and treated well throughout the process."