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Low rate of sex offence convictions.

Byline: LIZ PERKINS Reporter lliz.perkins@walesonline.co.uk

JUST 6.6% of the thousands of sexual offences reported to police in Wales over the last year led to a conviction.

A total of 8,573 sexual offences were reported across the nation during 2017-18, but out of those cases only 563 people were convicted of the crime.

Low conviction levels have been blamed on only a small number of people being charged after a sexual offence was reported.

Most cases never reach a courtroom and statistics show out of the 8,573 reported cases, only 727 went to court and 563 people were convicted, meaning 77% of prosecutions were successful.

In Wales, the number of people being prosecuted for sexual offences is falling, although the number of crimes reported to the police has gone up, according to the figures.

Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for Rape Crisis, said: "Rape and other sexual offences are historically and chronically under-reported, so increases in reporting can be cautiously interpreted as a positive reflection of increased confidence in the criminal justice system among victims and survivors. "This increase is also mirrored in the unprecedented and increasing demand for our specialist Rape Crisis support and advocacy services in recent years.

"At the same time, however, the criminal justice system is not only failing to keep pace with the increase in victims and survivors coming forward, it is actually backsliding, with police referrals, charges, prosecutions and convictions all falling.

"A complete overhaul of the criminal justice system in relation to sexual offences is long overdue; as it stands, it is routinely failing victims and survivors of sexual abuse, rape and all forms of sexual violence at every stage of the process.

"This must include dedicated, sustainable funding for specialist services so that all victims and survivors can get the support and advocacy they need and want, when they need and want it."

High-profile campaigns aimed at improving conviction for rapes and other sexual offences have failed to transform the situation.

In 2017-18, there were a total of 727 prosecutions for sexual offences in Wales, falling from 792 the year before.

The number of sexual offences reported to the police soared by more than a third, from 6,386 in 2016-17 to 8,573 last year.

Although the level of recorded offences has increased it could be due to improvements in how the police record crimes, or victims feel they are more able to come forward, rather than more offences having taken place.

A South Wales Police spokesman said: "South Wales Police takes each and every report of a sexual offence seriously, and urges victims to come forward to report them, safe in the knowledge they will be treated with respect and dignity and that their allegation will be fully investigated. "Every report of a sexual offence, or a suspected or possible sexual offence, is taken at face value and recorded on the force's crime recording system, irrespective of the source of the report. This includes reports made by third parties, through partnership working or from other agencies.

"Staff who deal with cases of this nature, from initial contact with the victim through to completion of a file of evidence, undertake comprehensive training and an accreditation process to ensure a professional investigation.

"The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) facility is considered for victims of sexual offences, ensuring the right support for the victim throughout the process. South Wales Police has three dedicated SARCs where victims receive a multi-agency service from initial reporting through to conclusion, offering healthcare, crisis support and mentoring through any criminal justice process.

"A dedicated Rape And Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) team within the Crown Prosecution Service delivers charging decisions, and a designated RASSO lawyer provides early investigative advice to officers."

Sexual offences not only include rape and sexual assault, but also include exposure and voyeurism, grooming and incest.

Most of those reported to the police in Wales were for the rape of a female aged 16 and over - a total of 1,621 cases, or sexual assault on a female aged 13 and over - making up a total of 1,878 cases.

There were 318 cases of grooming, 431 cases of exposure or voyeurism, and 31 cases of incest reported.

The figures on sexual offence convictions form part of a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report on violence against women and girls, which analyses crimes ranging from rape and domestic violence to child abuse and human trafficking.

Across Britain, the number of people being charged with these kinds of crimes fell, from 83,084 in 2016 in 2017 to 80,547 in 2017-18. But they make up a higher proportion of all the charges handed out by the CPS than ever before.

Figures reveal some 20% of all criminal charges made last year were for violence against women and girls - the highest proportion on record.

A CPS spokesman said: "We can only prosecute cases when they are referred to the CPS by the police and we have seen a recent fall in the number of these referrals in the last two years."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 24, 2018
Words:868
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