Last month it was revealed that only one person in every 200 accused in Wiltshire were charged with rape or sexual abuse in the last six months.
We asked the prospective Police & Crime Commissioner candidates how they would improve those figures if they are elected post-May.
Conservative candidate, Jonathon Seed said the figures were “disgraceful” and did not reflect well on the police or CPS.
“Knowing that so few victims see their attacker put before the courts means that something in our local criminal justice system is broken.
“I want to work with officers, staff and partners to understand how we are going to fix this part of the system that is clearly letting victims down. I want victims to have a compassionate and sensitive initial response from the police and investigations to be thorough, robust and high quality so that the CPS can put more allegations in front of the courts.
“The chief constable can expect to be held to account for improving the way the force responds to and investigates rape and sexual offences and, given the hundreds of victims involved, it will be subject to my intense scrutiny that will begin as soon as I am elected.”
Green Party candidate, Brig Oubridge said he believed women have a lack of trust in the police in respect to rape and sexual assault. This he told the Gazette, is why he would form an advisory panel with at least 50 per cent of the body being made up of women.
He added: “We must take the problem of institutional misogyny in the police as seriously as that of institutional racism, and as PCC this would be one of my highest priorities.
“Good relationships depend on trust, and I would hope to increase this through the advisory panel I will appoint, representative of the whole community.”
Julian Malins QC, the Reform UK hopeful for the top police role, said; “The police and the courts have made tremendous strides in their handling of sexual assault cases in the last 20 years.
“The main problem is that too many young men are brought up in households, where the father buggered off when they were young.
“Thus boys have no alpha male on hand in their teenage years to teach them respect for women.
“This is society’s problem. A second problem is cannabis, the laws against which should be ruthlessly enforced.”
Liz Webster, the Liberal Democrat candidate labelled the statistics as “deeply harrowing and troubling,” but added that the county’s figures were somewhat better than those seen nationally.
“But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and do nothing,” she said.
If she is elected, Ms Webster promised to work hard to find out why victims are “being failed by the justice system.”
She added: “Equally, I will work closely with charities such as Rape Crisis and the Centre for Women’s Justice to find solutions at a national level. I will also conduct a review into cases of rape that have been dropped.
“As a victim myself, I understand the pressure victims experience, how your life is on hold until the hearing is completed and that the waiting time for crown court hearings is now three years which risks witnesses pulling out and cases collapsing.
“By working with these groups I can target the root of the problem and create a safer Wiltshire where criminals are prosecuted.”
Labour’s Junab Ali said that a senior lead would be appointed to take more responsibility in the care of victims – if he is elected in May.
“The statistics are appalling,” he said. “For so few rapes to be reported, there is an underlying lack of trust in the police and the criminal justice system.
“We need to rebuild that trust through ensuring that our specialty officers have empathy with victims and assist them through the investigation and legal processes.
“Some of my budget can be targeted at education, some of which I would use to engage in schools and colleges to raise awareness of the issues around sexual harassment and consent.
“Much of the problem is around the culture our young people grow up in, and we need to make them aware their behaviours in life have real implications and ensure they understand these issues.”
Independent and former detective inspector, Mike Rees said: “Rape offences are a very complex issue. Very often there are only two people involved and it is one word against the other and comes down to issues around consent.
“That said, Wiltshire has the lowest detection rate which is not good, but I think it would be unfair to lay the blame with the police. There are some serious issues around the CPS charging policy.
“Their funding has been drastically reduced over the years putting strains on them and the whole justice system, particularly with the current backlog of cases caused by the pandemic. Victims are being let down.
“I would lobby central government to address the funding issue, and work with justice partners to address the charging policy. I would also continue funding independent sexual violence advisers who work with victims as well as other victim support networks.”