MORE than 9,000 people were estimated to have been raped in Yorkshire last year – but ultimately just over 200 people were convicted at court.
Figures provided by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also show the four police forces in the county are referring fewer cases for potential charging amid concern police budget cuts could threaten resources for rape investigations.
Pressure is acute in West Yorkshire where a huge surge in reported rapes, linked at least in part to the Jimmy Savile scandal, has led the force to consider whether it has to find more money to fund inquiries. Over the same period, detection rates in West Yorkshire have dropped by a quarter.
Supt David Pervin, from West Yorkshire Police, said: “The force is currently undertaking a full review of the how it delivers Safeguarding services which includes a detailed assessment of the level of demand and resources available to tackle the demand in key crime areas including rape.
“There is no intention to reduce the level of resources deployed in this very important area. The force will await the outcome of the review to decide whether resources will need to be increased.”
It has also emerged a key victim support centre earmarked for West Yorkshire three years ago has yet to open, prompting criticism the area is lagging behind the rest of the country.
As well as helping victims with access to help, Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) are seen as a valuable facility for gaining evidence and most force areas in the country have at least one.
Both Baroness Stern, who led a benchmark national review of how rape is investigated, and victim-support group Rape Crisis expressed concern a SARC had not opened in West Yorkshire.
CPS statistics also show apparent disparities in how Yorkshire forces approach or investigate rape, with cases referred to prosecutors from South and West Yorkshire Police more than twice as likely to result in a charge compared to North Yorkshire.
Rape Crisis England and Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: “Significant efforts have undoubtedly been made to improve levels of criminal justice for the huge numbers of sexual violence survivors in England and Wales, by the police, CPS and others.
“Some of these, such as specially trained officers and special measures for victims giving evidence in court, have had a positive impact and others, such as specialist sexual violence courts and prosecutors, are promising and we eagerly await the evidence around the impact pilots of these measures have had. But such an ingrained societal problem will not be solved overnight or by individual measures or even through new pieces of legislation.”
She said Government-backed raising of awareness and education about consent and the impact of sexual violence was essential if the situation was to improve, along with ensuring funding remains in place for support groups and services.
Rape Crisis can be contacted on freephone 0808 802 9999