Vast majority of Cheltenham sex attacks unsolved
THE vast majority of sex attacks in Cheltenham remain undetected, shocking new figures reveal.
A Freedom of Information inquiry by the Echo has shown most attackers will never be brought to justice.
Ninety-seven sexual assaults were reported to Cheltenham police between January 2012 and September 2013.
Only 13 people were charged and brought before the courts during that 19-month period.
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The figures also show that 49 people – including 17 children – were alleged to have been raped in Cheltenham during the same period.
Charges have followed in just four of those cases.
Police established that in many of these cases the attacker was known to their victim, but that there is not enough evidence to pursue a conviction.
It has also emerged that police in Cheltenham are investigating a number of historic cases, many of which have only come to light in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile inquiries.
Detective superintendent Marc Flannery said: "All reports of sexual assaults are taken incredibly seriously and thoroughly investigated by our officers who are dedicated to getting the best possible outcome for the victim.
"Investigations into sexual offences can be extremely complex, with consent a key factor in a significant number of cases. Sometimes, even though we have exhausted every line of inquiry, there is not always sufficient evidence to prosecute.
"Ninety per cent of rapes are committed by someone known to their victim and there are sometimes complex issues to address when investigating the offence.
"Where an offence has been committed within a family or relationship, for instance, the welfare of the victim can mean that in some cases it's in their best interests not to pursue charges and, instead, to ensure a safe environment for them to live in.
"These statistics include reports of sexual assaults that happened prior to January 2012, where the individual has, perhaps, only now felt able to report the offence."
Overall, 81 sexual offences have gone undetected in Cheltenham since January last year. In addition, two offenders were cautioned for sexual assaults on women over the age of 13.
The highest number of sexual assaults reported to the police were made in January and February this year.
Gloucestershire Constabulary has relaunched its appeals for information connected to three sexual assaults in Cheltenham.
They include an attempted rape in Brunswick Street on February 3, an attempted sexual assault in Robert Burns Avenue, Benhall, on February 18, and a sexual assault in the Promenade on April 1.
The Echo has also learned that there are more individuals who have not reported sex attacks to the police and, instead, opt to speak to specialists anonymously.
Det Supt Flannery said: "We do encourage victims, wherever possible to report the offence to the police as soon as possible as this can make a significant difference in the recovery of potential evidence, be it forensic, CCTV or witness statements.
"This in turn improves our chances of securing a conviction, however, we would reassure the public that we go to every effort possible no matter how long it has been since the offence.
"We hope that the bravery of those victims who have come forward gives strength to anyone who may be suffering in silence to contact the police, no matter when the offence happened.
"Sadly sexual assault is an under-reported crime and we admire the courage of victims that do come forward.