A FORMER Trowbridge civic leader has condemned Wiltshire Police after new figures revealed they have charged only one person out of 200 allegations of rape or sexual abuse in the last six months.

The Home Office report showed Wiltshire Police was the lowest-performing force in England and Wales as far as rape charges are concerned.

Ex-mayor David Cavill said: “There was one charge out of 200 allegations in the latest six-month period, while in Durham, 20 charges out of 169 alleged rapes were secured. I am appalled by this statistic.

The councillor, who joined the Lib Dems after he was kicked out of the Conservative Party, said: “Locally, I have found the police responsible and responsive, but at a time when domestic violence appears to have increased substantially, women continue to be subjected to unacceptable comments at best and serious sexual attack at worst, this is surely not good enough.

“There is no doubt that a cultural change is required in our society, and I would not for a moment suggest that there is an easy solution. But determination in investigating sexual complaints by our police force must surely be a key element of such change and should be given the highest priority.”

New figures from the Office for National Statistics showed 73,000 adults aged 16 to 74 years were victims of sexual assault, including attempts, in the last year. Female victims numbered 618,000 compared to 155,000 males.

Latest Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates show that fewer than one in six (16 per cent) female victims and one in five (19 per cent) male victims aged 16 to 59 years of sexual assault by rape or penetration reported it to the police.

In response, Wiltshire Police has urged victims of rape and sexual assault to report offences, no matter how long ago they occurred, so they can be fully investigated.

Det Supt Chris Hanson said: “It goes without saying that we take reports of rape and sexual assault incredibly seriously and we want our communities to have complete confidence in reporting these types of offences to the police. Dealing with rape and sexual assault is the Force’s priority.

“We accept that the figures both locally and nationally do not paint a reassuring picture, but we must stress that we are being very proactive in trying to make improvements.

“We have been working closely with our colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service to improve our joint response to rape and serious sexual offences and now have a tri-force Wessex action plan in place. This has seen the introduction of a range of measures with a greater focus on improving the service we provide for victims and increasing the likelihood the perpetrator will be brought to justice.

“We have recruited extra specialist staff to ensure victims are supported throughout the whole process and all RASSO cases are investigated by specially-trained detectives. In addition, all cases are prosecuted by specialist lawyers who are trained to understand the challenges that are often associated with such cases.”

The benefits were already becoming apparent.“We are seeing more cases referred to CPS more quickly. We are also increasing the number of perpetrators being charged and prosecuted. This is not something which can be drastically improved overnight, but we want this to be a sustained, long-term action plan that makes a real difference for victims and brings offenders to justice.

“As always we would urge victims of rape and sexual assault to report offences to the police, no matter how long ago they occurred, so they can be fully investigated.”

“You can do this by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency. Victims can also seek support and counselling from the Swindon and Wiltshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) - they can be contacted on the helpline 01793 781916.”

A spokeswoman for The Survivors Trust, which supports victims of rape, sexual violence and sexual abuse, said: “If survivors choose not to report rape or sexual abuse to the police, they can still access support from us or our member agencies.

“This is irrespective of when the abuse occurred, whether they have told anyone else, or if they are considering reporting it at any point in the future.

“They can contact our helpline directly on 0808 801 0818, or use the function on our website to search for a support agency near them: https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/find-support.

“It’s really important that survivors know they are not alone and that there is support available to them regardless of their situation.”

Revival-Wiltshire RASAC in Trowbridge, which supports victims of rape and sexual abuse, has been approached for comment.