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“Significant” backlog of child rape cases in Surrey

“Significant” backlog of child rape cases in Surrey

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 5:07pm 14th August 2019.

A backlog of child rape and sexual offences being investigated by Surrey Police has reached “significant” levels, according to the county’s chief constable.

This follows problems the police force has faced with disclosure of information in the past, a meeting heard. 

There are 247 offences recorded around rape and sexual offences against children under the age of 16. Out of these, 184 are historic cases. Figures show a slight decrease between 2017/18 and 2018/19 of 10 offences.

Sexual abuse offences against children can also include indecent images, assault by touching, and sexual exploitation of a child under 16.

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said he has drafted in more specialist detectives to tackle the high numbers of cases and support workers to care for victims. 

But he said it was a challenge to get through the backlog due to the “stressful and traumatic” nature of the work for his officers. 

And requirements around disclosure tests have led to a delay in the number of cases being submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

A report report highlighting the rise in child sex offences was presented at Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro’s performance meeting on Tuesday, August 13. 

It showed the rate of successful outcomes in relation to this crime against children under the age of 16 had dropped from around 20 per cent to under 4 per cent in April 2018/19.

Chief Constable Stephens said: “This is one of the most serious offences our teams are charged with investigating. There has been a marked change in recent years.”

He said the volume of rape and serious sexual offences the team is dealing with overall has risen “quite dramatically” and that historic cases added another “layer of complexity” to how the crimes are recorded. 

And that a drop in convictions and successful outcomes was due to the large numbers.

Money has been invested in specialist detectives to investigate the crimes as well as trained specialist forensic experts working with officers. 

He said: “We do need to give teams a break from investigating this work as it can be stressful and traumatic work for the teams involved.”

The rise in council tax precept for the police will fund the extra 10 support staff needed to help with the caseload. 

Officers are working with the Crown Prosecution Service for “early investigative advice” and closer attention to detail for disclosure information. 

He added: “Sadly the volume of child rape offences – rape of young people under 16 – is significant in number and we have got some real challenges of getting those cases through the court. What that doesn’t mean is that we are not supporting victims as best we can.”

Failings with Surrey Police’s disclosure process involving a case against former DJ Jonathan King led to an urgent independent review last August. 

The outcome of the review has still not been concluded.

Chief Constable Stephens added: “There is no doubt there is a backlog built up in this instance because of the disclosure issues particularly around electronic evidence.”

He said that was across all rape and sexual offence cases. 

Mr Munro said: “The report makes quite sombre reading and there are huge tragedies around every single statistic. The low clear-up rate is pretty disturbing.”

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