Vital evidence was withheld from defence lawyers in 47 cases of rape and sexual assault across England and Wales, a report from the Crown Prosecution Service has revealed.

The report, categorised by CPS region has recognised that none of these cases fall into the Wessex region which covers Wiltshire Police.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson chairs Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board (WCJB) which brings together representatives from criminal justice agencies across the region including police, probation and the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS).

He said, “In recent years, Wiltshire Police has done lots of work in raising awareness and increasing public confidence when reporting crime, but it is of paramount importance that investigations are carried out in a timely, balanced manner and it is fundamental that any evidence which may undermine the prosecution’s case is shared with defence lawyers.

“People must have the confidence to talk to police and know that they will be listened to, but the police also have a duty to investigate any complaint fairly and rigorously.

“It is reassuring to see that Wessex was not identified as having any disclosure failings as part of this review. However, the Force cannot be complacent and must remain focussed when it comes to tackling crime.

“Both I and Wiltshire Police have invested in improving officer and staff training, case file preparation and services to support victims through the criminal justice service.”

For the past year, the Force has had a dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence tactical lead and has also appointed a former CPS lawyer to ensure the integrity and quality of sexual offence investigations being sent to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) in order to improve conviction rates in cases sent to court.

This will ensure that victims of these types of crime receive the best support and that police investigations are of the highest possible quality.

Detective Supt Jeremy Carter, Wiltshire Police lead for rape and sexual offences, said: “We have already been on the front foot with this issue, putting measures in place to ensure we compile the very strongest cases when it comes to reports of rape and sexual assault.

“This has included working with a former CPS lawyer that specialises in these types of offences, who has been providing us with guidance and support to make sure we are improving our conviction rates.

“This report shows that Wiltshire Police methods are working, as these figures reveal that we have no failures in Wiltshire with regards serious sexual offences and disclosure concerns.”

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