CRIME prosecution rates in Dorset are ‘woefully low’ according to one councillor.

Only 14.4 per cent of reported crimes now results in a charge or a caution – less than half of what it was a few years ago.

Police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill says police forces had been told by former Home Secretary Theresa May not to be driven by statistics.

The directive was a mistake, he said.

“I know that Dorset people care about how many criminals are caught and we should have targets,” he told the county’s police and crime panel.

When elected, Mr Underhill pledged to drive the 20 per cent detection rate to 35 per cent. He had succeeded in getting it to 32 per cent before the need to collect statistics was dropped.

”If you asked the public if they thought 14 per cent was acceptable I think you would struggle to find anyone who agreed,” he said.

Councillor Bobbie Dove described the figure as “woefully low.”

“I am sure that a lot of it is about a lack of cops but it is also because the police have been told not to be that worried about minor crimes, but 14 per cent is just too low and it needs to be higher.”

Panel member Iain McVie said: “They have gone from drifting to falling off the edge of a cliff.”

The panel heard that some of the problem lay with underfunding of the local courts. Mr Underhill said some of the county's courts are so poorly-funded that 'plaster falls from the ceiling'.

He said his main concern was delays in domestic violence cases being heard.

The crime now represents one in every three court hearings, the panel heard.

“The length of time it is now taking to get to court means that more victims are withdrawing [complaints]," he said.

"The courts are doing the best they can but it does impact on what the police can do.

"There are tensions everywhere because of austerity measures."

The 14.4 per cent figure is described as “a positive outcome rate” – the percentage of total crime that results in either a charge or a caution.

It covers the period from April 1 until November 12th 2019.