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Rape statistics suggest variation in police reporting

There is wide variation in the way police record and classify rape allegations, new figures show.

HM’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) compiled data showing the differences in how police forces across England and Wales recorded the crime.

The highest number of reported rapes was in Northamptonshire, at 34.8 per 100,000 of the adult population. The lowest was 9.8 per 100,000, in Durham.

But HMIC warned that a low number of recorded rapes could raise questions over the police disbelieving victims.

It said: “Increases in the number of rapes being recorded may mean that victims feel more confident in reporting what happened to them; or decreases may mean that victims are losing confidence in the authorities to treat them sensitively.”

The statistics, which cover the year to the end of March 2013, showed that the number of recorded rapes for both adults and children have risen steadily since 2008. In 2012/13 there were 10,000 recorded rapes of adults and 6,000 of children.

Liz Kelly, chairwoman of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said: “The wide disparities between different areas' reporting rates may indicate that the culture of scepticism remains in some police forces.

“This is not a surprise to us. Our member organisations know how deep disbelief and victim-blaming goes in institutions and communities.

“But the police play a critical role enabling rape survivors to access justice, so these disparities and attitudes must be urgently tackled.”

HMIC also highlighted the number of recorded rapes that were declassified, and those resulting in conviction and punishment. Although Durham had the lowest number of reported rapes, it also had the highest ‘sanction detection rate’, with the number that ended in a caution or charge at 32% compared to the national average of 18%.

And while Lincolnshire had one of the lowest levels of recorded rape, 33% of offences initially recorded as rape were later declassified.

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