CRIME Commissioners say rape victims are being let down as new figures reveal reports have increased but the numbers being charged have declined.

Nationally, the overall number of rapes reported to police rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017/18, compared with 41,186 the previous year.

But the overall charge rate fell in the same period from 6.8 per cent to 4.2 per cent, according to data gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group (RMG).

In the Durham Constabulary force area, there were 623 reported rapes in 2017/18 and The Ministry of Justice reported that 61 suspects were proceeded against, resulting in six being found guilty.

Cleveland Police recorded 637 rape cases, 30 suspects were proceeded against and 20 were found guilty.

In North Yorkshire, there were 1,714 rapes reported in 2017/18, with 14 offenders being found guilty.

Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), said she had "serious concerns" about the way the system is working.

The Northern Echo:

Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

She said: "“These figures highlight a domino effect that topples through the criminal justice system beginning with the police and ending up with rapists getting away with their crimes.

“While North Yorkshire’s charge rate is well above the national average, it remains low and I have serious concerns about performance which I raised at our last Local Criminal Justice Partnership meeting, where I asked all partners to review their work.

She added: “It is essential for victims to know they will be treated sensitively and taken seriously, and that by coming forward, there is a strong chance that justice will be done.

"This is clearly not the case at present."

Ron Hogg, Durham PCC, said rape can bring "devastating consequences" for victims, adding: “Supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice requires all criminal justice agencies to work together to ensure cases are investigated thoroughly, victims and witnesses supported and evidence presented that results in successful outcomes."

The Northern Echo:

Ron Hogg, Durham PCC

Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger said a lot of work was being done to help victims.

He added: “The entire criminal justice system has a duty to ensure that justice is served and that vulnerable victims feel supported to take on what is a very intimidating and frightening process.

"I will continue to invest in services to give victims this confidence, and expect Cleveland Police to deliver a policing service they deserve.”

The Northern Echo:

Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger Picture: KATIE LUNN

The national Victims' Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, said the justice system was 'letting down' victims.

She added: "More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases is resulting in a conviction. "How can this be justice?"

A CPS spokesman said: "The growing gap between the number of rapes recorded and the number of cases going to court is a great cause of concern. That's why the CPS is taking part in a system-wide review to scrutinise how these cases are being handled."