Police data on the number of rapes recorded by 43 police forces, and the outcomes, are published together for the first time today, with the figures showing Devon and Cornwall has one of the highest reported rape rates, and among the lowest levels of detection.
The information was published by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary to help the public understand the extent of rape offending in their area and look at how their force is responding to this serious crime alongside other forces.
The figures show that there were 30.3 reports of rape to Devon and Cornwall Police for the 12 month period to March 2013 per 100,000 population, which at just over 30% makes it the fifth highest. The detection rate was 12%, making it the fifth lowest. The national average was 22 per 100,000 population, with an 18% detection rate.
The level of child rape reported for the period, just over 91 per 100,000 children, is the third highest in the county, with a detection rate of 24%, the eighth lowest, and less than the national rate of 31%. Child rape reports that were classed as "no crime' was 4% for the 12 month period to March 2013, lower than the national rate of 5%.
Nationally the number of recorded rapes, of both adults and children (under 16 years), has steadily increased since March 2008. In the last financial year (to March 2013) there were approximately 6,000 recorded rapes of children and approximately 10,000 recorded rapes of adults in England and Wales.
The figures do not show the full picture, as according to HMIC: "Increases in the numbers 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."
Concern over a "culture of disbelief" in rape cases has been raised as figures show that some police forces are writing off up to a third of all allegations reported to them, however in Devon and Cornwall this 'no crime' rate is 8%, falling from 18 per cent in 2009, lower than the national average of 12%.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: “We welcome the publication of the report which provides the public with a clear understanding of how all police forces are responding to this very serious crime.
“The numbers cannot tell the whole story. The figures reflect that now more than ever victims are feeling confident to come forward and report offences to us.
“Rape is an abhorrent crime which has a devastating effect on the victim and this offence is treated very seriously by Devon and Cornwall Police.
“We encourage reporting and are determined to provide the best possible service to the victims. To this end we have specialist investigation teams and dedicated sexual offences liaison officers to ensure victims are properly supported and cared by police.
“We also working very closely with partner agencies such as Health and those in the Criminal Justice System to support victim care and importantly, ensure offenders are brought to justice.
“Our figures also reflect the fact that all allegations of rape are recorded as a crime when first reported. This again ensures victims feel confident in the way the Force responds to and investigates such allegations.
We continually monitor our performance in respect of this crime and through the work that we have undertaken over the last twelve months we have seen an improvement in police outcomes. We will work hard with our partners to ensure that this improvement is maintained.
In every case we will work closely with the victim to ensure that they receive the best possible service and that any outcome meets their specific needs. In many cases a successful outcome may not necessarily mean a formal prosecution through the court process.
“It is important to remember that Devon and Cornwall sees a significant increase in population during the summer months and this has an inevitable impact of crime levels.
Chair of the RMG, HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling, said on behalf of the RMG members: “Rape is one of the most serious violent crimes and the impact on victims can be devastating. It is absolutely crucial that the police and wider criminal justice system has all of the information available to ensure that victims are being believed and the police are following through investigations.
“We will be seeking to improve on these data sets and will publish information at regular intervals to encourage and maintain performance improvements across England and Wales.”