In three years more than nine in every ten nightclub and pub sexual assault cases were closed without anyone being charged, according to data obtained by Birmingham Eastside.
The data, provided in response to a Freedom of Information request to West Midlands Police, showed that only 8% of cases resulted in a charge or summons, while further action was not possible in 85% of cases despite a suspect being identified, because of “evidential difficulties”.
Yvonne Langham, Head of ISVA Services at the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP), said: “It can come down to just the victim’s word against the perpetrators. A lot of offenders will lie through their back of their teeth in order to get themselves off the hook.
“When someone has just been assaulted their brain is processing the trauma and the initial account they provide may not be as detailed as a full statement taken at a slightly later date.
“The differences are not always seen as normal and how we as humans process data, but sometimes as an evidential difficulty”
Delays caused by the pandemic mean it now can take around four years before cases reach court.
“People are tired of the case overhanging them, overwhelmed,” Langham said. “And they just want to move on with their lives.”
One in eight sexual assault victims were male
West Midlands Police recorded 40 reports of sexual assault between January 2019 and January 2022. 35 of the victims were female, one of which was under 13. Five victims were male.
Langham said: “It’s well known to the public that prosecution for sexual assault is critically low. And it needs to be addressed that not enough cases are getting into court because it puts people off from coming forward.”
The West Midlands doesn’t currently have a specific sexual offences team, and cases are handled under a wider department. Langham says this means the officers assigned to cases are often relatively new and inexperienced.
“We really need a team dedicated purely to sexual offences, where officers can be trained in how to work well with survivors of sexual violence. I believe this will contribute to people having more faith in reporting and hopefully an improvement in conviction rates moving forwards.
“The police must put suspects at the core of all investigations, not victims. Victims don’t have anything to gain from lying. Sadly we live in a victim blaming culture where it usual for victims to be asked what they did, or failed to do which then contributed to them being attacked. We must all remember that there is only one person to blame for a rape or sexual assault, and that — without question — is the offender.”
West Midlands Police were approached for comment but did not respond.