Only eight percent of rapes reported to Avon & Somerset Police are leading to charges being brought — but this is double the rate last year.

Speaking at a Performance and Accountability Board meeting, Avon & Somerset Police Chief Constable Sarah Crew said it was: “not enough, we know, but a doubling nevertheless.”

In the 12 months to April, she said that the police force brought 141 rape charges, more than double the 69 brought in the period the year before.

Chief Constable 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, so July to September 2022, on the national […] criminal justice scorecard, we had the third highest adult rape charge in the country.”

But the number of sexual offences and domestic abuse crimes recorded across the last year has gone down.  

Sally Fox, director of performance and accountability at the police crime commissioner’s office 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?”

Chief Constable 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 can’t do it without effectively tackling [and] addressing this area effectively.”

As well as Avon & Somerset’s chief constable, Crew is the National Police Chiefs’ Lead for Adult Sex Offences and the police force ran the pilot of a new way of tackling rape cases, Operation Sortia Bluestone, in early 2021.

The 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. 

Chief Constable Crew said: “We believe that what we are learning from Soteria Bluestone has the potential to improve our response to all male violence against women and girls offences. 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 the DA [Domestic Abuse] Matters programme, delivered by Chief Inspector Sharon Baker and charity Safelives, which Chief Constable Crew said 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.”