FEWER than 30 offenders were prosecuted out of almost 800 reports of rape and attempted rape in the space of a year in Dorset.

During the 12 months to March 31, 2020, Dorset Police received 782 reports of rape and attempted rape.

Of those 782, 168 arrests were made, and only 28 people were prosecuted in some way.

While 45 cases are still “under investigation”, the FOI revealed 14 people were charged with rape and ten were given a postal requisition notifying them that their case was to be prosecuted.

Two people were charged with an alternate offence, one was given a postal requisition for an alternate offence and one was given a youth condition caution.

The FOI also highlighted that in 273 cases, the victim declined or withdrew support after the named suspect was identified and in 147 cases the victim declined or was unable to support action to identify the offender.

In 179 cases, the police had a named suspect and the victim supported, but there were evidential difficulties. In 39 cases, another body or agency “has investigation primacy” and an investigation was complete with no suspect identified in 36 incidents.

The Crown Prosecution Service had a named suspect and the victim’s support but evidential difficulties meant the case fell through 13 times.

On seven occasions, the suspect was named but a formal investigation was “not in the public interest” while on one occasion, formal action was “not in the public interest”.

In three cases, the suspect was named but the victim or key witness died or was too ill. A suspect was named but was found to be below the age of criminal responsibility on two occasions and on one occasion the suspect was too ill to prosecute. In eight cases, the offender died.

In a statement over the figures, a spokesperson for Dorset Police said: “There is no single response to rape cases and the decision-making process during an investigation encompasses a wider range of factors than the single objective of obtaining a conviction. These could include considerations around safeguarding, providing the appropriate support and respecting the wishes of the victim.

“We are currently working with CPS Wessex and other local forces and have developed a joint action plan in relation to rape and serious sexual offences as we look to take a partnership approach to try and increase the number of cases prosecuted.

"We are committed to providing the highest levels of service to victims of serious sexual offences.

"There are huge challenges around the investigation of sexual offences and we are committed to working with partners to ensure the best possible outcomes for all victims. As part of our victim-led approach we have to recognise that there are some cases where the victim is not seeking a criminal justice outcome.

“There can be a range of complex reasons behind this and we do not underestimate the importance of listening to these individuals.”