Very few sex offenders convicted

A tiny proportion of sexual offences committed in England and Wales lead to a conviction in court, the first statistical review of its kind has revealed.

Around 473,000 adult men and women are victims of a sexual offence on average each year, a joint overview by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Home Office and Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated. But only 54,000 sexual offences are recorded by police on average each year and 5,620 offenders are convicted, the review said.

The report brings together, for the first time, a range of official figures from across the criminal justice system to provide an overview of sexual offending in England and Wales.

The review showed that one in five women has been a victim of a sexual offence, which includes the most serious crimes such as rape and other offences such as flashing.

Around 69,000 women are estimated to have been raped in the last year, while 90% of victims knew the perpetrator.

The study showed that just 15% of women reported the offence to the police, with the most common reasons for not coming forward being "embarrassing", "didn't think the police could do much to help", "too trivial" and "private matter".

Some 9,900 sex offences went to court in 2011 with 1,600 offenders found guilty at magistrates' courts and 4,400 convicted at crown courts.

There were just under 1,200 convictions for rape in 2011, compared with just under 800 in 2005, the figures showed. There were also 19 cautions administered for rape, with 16 going to offenders aged 17 or younger.

The panel of experts behind the study said it was not possible to calculate a precise percentage figure to reflect the number of offences committed that lead to convictions because many of the statistics were not directly comparable. But the team agreed the proportion of offences leading to conviction was "small".

Justice minister Jeremy Wright said: "Very tough sentences are available to the courts for those who commit the most serious offences including a new mandatory life sentence which we have introduced for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent crime. We are already looking into how police cautions are being used. We shouldn't remove the right for police officers to exercise discretion but the public are right to expect that people who commit serious crimes will be brought before a court."

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