Wiltshire Police has offered an explanation for data which led to national headlines labelling the force the "worst in the country for solving rape cases".

And it says Home Office figures about rape outcomes “doesn’t accurately reflect its position”. 

Stories published by the Telegraph and Daily Mail this week revealed only 0.7 per cent of rapes reported to Wiltshire Police resulted in a charge of summons according to Home Office data for the three years from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

But Wiltshire Police said it is one of three forces nationwide which reports crime outcomes manually, which creates a lag in the data provided. 

It says over the past 12 months, its rape detection rate rose from 3.8 per cent in October 2020 to 4.1 per cent this year.

A police spokesperson said: “However, we completely accept that these amended figures still do not represent where we want to be as a police force and we are continuing to do everything we can to improve our outcomes.

“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 have been working closely with our colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service to improve our joint response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) and now have a tri-force Wessex RASSO 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.”

Wiltshire Police have recruited extra specialist staff to ensure victims are supported throughout the whole process, adding “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.

“We are pleased to say that we are already seeing the benefits of this approach and we are hopeful that this will be reflected in future data. 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.”

Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson has asked Chief Constable to look at the process and ensure the force continues to work towards automated data submissions so that inconsistencies like this do not happen again.

“Figures like the ones reported are seriously damaging to Wiltshire Police, its credibility and is not a fair reflection of the work that has been ongoing,” he said.

“While Wiltshire’s figure has improved over 12 months I accept it isn’t good enough and I will ensure enough resources and capability is available to the force to continue to improve these outcomes. As far as I am concerned, one crime is too many, one victim is too many.  

“Nationally, those same figures aren’t improving and are appallingly low, this paints a rather dim picture. Victims deserve better from police forces and from the wider criminal justice system.

“I am determined this will change. I, alongside my fellow PCCs in Dorset and Hampshire, have commissioned an external, independent, review to drive improvements where they are needed in the criminal justice system, and beyond: looking at better services for victims, better training for professionals and better outcomes for victims too.

“Work to address the public’s concerns around violence against women and girls, alongside rape and serious sexual assault, will be a key feature of my new Police and Crime Plan: providing that joined-up approach, leadership and policing direction for the Force over the next four years.

“Myself and the Chief Constable are determined that we will robustly affect culture change, where necessary, and I plan to work with the Force to track every single rape case reported to them to provide that oversight. Together we will work to make Wiltshire safer and rebuild the public’s trust in policing.”