By Joanna Morris, Data Reporter
Campaigners calling for a ‘radical overhaul’ of the response to low-level sex crimes say the criminal justice system is failing victims, after just 14 per cent of voyeurism or indecent exposure crimes across England and Wales ended with a charge or court summons in 2020-21.
The most recent Home Office recorded crime data shows Sussex Police received 285 reports of voyeurism or flashing crimes in the year to March 2021– though this was down from the 362 recorded the year before.
Different data shows cases of this nature are often shelved before reaching a courtroom, with 37 of the 291 investigations (13 per cent) closed during the same period in the area resulting in a suspect being charged or summonsed.
Forces across England and Wales recorded 10,200 such crimes in 2020-21, again down from 10,800 the year before.
And another 3,300 were recorded between April and June 2021 – 90 in Sussex.
Prior to the impact of the pandemic, which led to crime rates dropping, the number of offences had been climbing steadily in recent years.
Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens was accused of indecent exposure six years before he murdered Sarah Everard and was said to have exposed his genitals in a fast-food restaurant just days before the killing.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is now investigating allegations that officers failed to adequately probe the claims.
Data shows 40 per cent of the 10,400 cases closed nationally in 2020-21 were dropped due to difficulties gathering evidence, with one in six of those closed before a suspect could be identified.
Charge rates for reports of voyeurism and flashing varied significantly between police forces last year – in Warwickshire, just 5 per cent resulted in a charge or summons, while in Dyfed-Powys, 31 per cent did.
Campaign group End Violence Against Women and Girls called for more research into the response to ‘lower level’ sex offences and whether that response contributes to a sense of impunity in men who go onto commit more serious crimes.
Deputy director Deniz Ugur said: “It’s abundantly clear the current system is failing women and girls when incidents like street harassment, groping and flashing are almost universally experienced by women and girls across their lifetimes, and then are so often trivialised or dismissed if reported.”
She said a radical overhaul of the policing and criminal justice system’s response to violence against women was needed to ensure the “drivers and actions of perpetrators” were properly investigated and victims supported to access justice.
A Government spokeswoman said police forces ‘must tackle violence against women and girls head on’.
She said the Government is funding a new national policing lead to tackle violence against women and girls in recognition of the seriousness of the issue and the need to drive improvements.
She said: “We expect forces to take the necessary action to treat reports of these crimes with the care and sensitivity they deserve.”