Hundreds of crimes of sexual violence were committed against women and girls in Cheshire last year – and most offenders got away with it.
Last year a total of 1,709 sexual attacks were carried out against women and young girls in Cheshire.
That includes 987 crimes of rape and 722 of sexual assault.
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Yet only 60 offenders were charged with a crime or received a court summons.
Meanwhile, six out of 10 offenders (63.6 per cent) got away without any form of punishment whatsoever, either because of problems with the evidence (including the victim not supporting further action), a suspect not being found, or prosecution deemed not to be in the public interest.
Of the rest, two offenders received an out-of-court sanction, such as a caution or a penalty notice, and responsibility for further investigation was transferred to another body in three cases.
Another 557 offences (32.6 per cent) recorded by Cheshire Police have yet to be assigned an outcome.
The figures are revealed at a time when the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens has shone a spotlight on male violence against women and girls – and how it is dealt with by the police and the courts.
Mary Morgan, a scholar and expert in body politics focusing on the eradication of violence against women and rape culture from our society, said: “Statistics prove that sexual assailants are still getting away with assault.
“This lack of accountability inherently tells men that they can get away with sexual violence, and tells survivors that reporting their crime only has the slightest chance of justice.
“When you read those statistics, would it make you feel safe, confident, and secure to come forward and report sexual violence?
“Not only does sexual violence have the worst conviction rate of violent crimes in our society, it also is the most underreported.
“In reality these stats are far, far worse, because they only represent what has been reported, and sexual violence is the most underreported crime.
“Women who have been sexually assaulted know they will likely be let down by the system; they know that 99% of cases do not move forward, so they don’t come forward, and then men continue to get away with sexual violence.
“Our current justice system abandons survivors of sexual violence, and leaves victims to suffer alone, or to endure further suffering within the system. That’s not justice. That’s a continuation of violence against survivors.
“We need to completely overhaul the justice system. Women deserve a justice system that makes it safe for them to come forward with reports of harassment or assault; a system that does not shame, blame, or belittle survivors; a system that does not deliver more suffering to victims; a system that encourages confidence that survivors will receive justice; a system that actually delivers real justice.
“It’s the bare minimum that survivors of sexual violence deserve.”
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In Cheshire, crimes of rape actually went up by 7.4 per cent from 919 offences in 2019/20 to 987 last year.
Those figures include 137 offences against girls under the age of 16, and 93 against children under the age of 13.
There were also 34 crimes of rape committed by multiple offenders.
Yet of all those offences, less than three in 100 (2.1 per cent) concluded with a suspect being charged or summonsed, while no-one faced any kind of punishment at all in six out of 10 cases (59.3 per cent).
Detective Chief Superintendent Denise Worth, head of public protection at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “Arresting those responsible for rape and sexual assaults is a key priority for us as a police force, and whilst it is very concerning to see a rise in the report of rapes, this does show that victims are having the confidence to come forward and report this to us.
“In isolation I can understand that these figures do look alarming. However, when broken down, we do have a relatively high rate of prosecution in sexual assault cases when compared to other forces nationally.
“I want to reassure all victims that they will be believed, listened to and supported when reporting incidents of rape and sexual assaults.
“Those responsible for these crimes will be dealt with by our officers and we will do everything we can to support these cases through the courts, continuing with our commitment to keep women, girls and the public of Cheshire safe.”
Crimes of sexual assault fell by 8.4 per cent from 788 to 722.
Overall, crimes of sexual violence increased very slightly, by two offences from 1,707 in 2019/20.
Last year there was a total of 534 crimes of rape and sexual assault in Cheshire East, 505 in Cheshire West and Chester, 357 in Warrington and 225 in Halton.
But a comparison of the female population shows that women are more likely to be attacked in Halton than anywhere else in Cheshire.
Last year, for every 10,000 women and girls in Halton, there were around 34 attacks of sexual violence.
That was followed by Warrington, also with around 34 attacks for every 10,000 of the female population, Cheshire West and Chester (29 per 10,000 women and girls) and Cheshire East (27 per 10,000 women and girls).