Sexual offences in the Forest of Dean reach record high

Police-recorded sexual offences have reached a record high in the Forest of Dean, new figures show.
Friday 22nd July 2022 9:43 am
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Credit by Paul Faith (PA Archive )

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Police-recorded sexual offences have reached a record high in the Forest of Dean, new figures show.

As the total number of reported sex offences peaked across England and Wales, charities have urged the Government to do more to protect victims who feel unsupported by the criminal justice system.

Office for National Statistics figures show Gloucestershire Constabulary recorded 163 sexual offences in the Forest of Dean in the year to March – up from 129 last year and the highest number since records began in 2003.

The number of sexual offences reported to the force has more than tripled since that year, when 52 crimes were logged.

Across England and Wales, 194,683 sexual offences were reported in 2021-22 – a 32% increase on the year prior and also a record high.

Reported sexual offences have increased more than three-fold in the last decade, though the impact of high-profile cases and campaigns on victims’ willingness to report incidents is a factor, the ONS said.

Ruth Davison, CEO of domestic abuse charity Refuge, said: "We need system-wide reform to ensure that survivors are supported and believed when they make the brave choice to report the abuse they’ve experienced and the crimes committed against them.

"Without it, women will continue to lack confidence in the system and be less inclined from seeking the justice they deserve."

The Home Office said more victims coming forward is "encouraging", but admitted more must be done.

A spokesperson added: "The police and the Crown Prosecution Service must continue to raise the bar in handling such cases, so victims know they will be taken seriously and the criminals responsible are put behind bars.

"Through our Rape Review Action Plan, we are working to make sure the system works better."

The number of reported rape offences across England and Wales has also reached a record high, topping 70,000 for the first time in 2021-22 – an increase of 26% from the year before.

Rape Crisis warned the number of recorded rape offences does not tell the entire story as victims and survivors fear they won’t be believed or taken seriously, and know that they are "highly unlikely" to ever see someone charged.

Chief executive Jayne Butler said: "Victims and survivors are coming forward in increasing numbers to report the sexual offences they are experiencing – and the Government have promised to act on this.

"That bravery deserves real and meaningful action in response.

"We need to see swift, sustained and ambitious action from both the Government and justice agencies in response to these increased reporting figures."

The National Police Chiefs' Council said: "Rape is a devastating offence, and we are committed to improving every aspect of how these life-changing crimes are dealt with.

"We remain positive about the progress that is being made but recognise there is still a long way to go so more victims come forward and report with confidence."

Recorded stalking and harassment offences also rose by 15% in the last year, from 630,000 to 720,000.

Of these, 855 were reported in the Forest of Dean – up from 545 in 2020-21.

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