Campaigners say system is failing women and girls reporting low-level sex offences in West Yorkshire that are going unpunished
Voyeurs and flashers were reported to West Yorkshire police hundreds of times during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic – but justice will be served in few of those cases, past figures suggest.
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 West Yorkshire Police received 321 reports of voyeurism or flashing crimes in the year to March 2021– though this was down from the 341 recorded the year before.
Different data shows cases of this nature are often shelved before reaching a courtroom, with 29 of the investigations (nine 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 – 119 in West Yorkshire.
Prior to the impact of the pandemic, which led to crime rates dropping, the number of offences had been climbing steadily in recent years.
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 five 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" and the government was 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.
West Yorkshire Police said in a statement to the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The prevention and detection of all forms of violent and sexual offences are a force priority and we continue to work closely with partner organisations to make the county a safer place.
“Such crimes are taken seriously as they are recognised as potential pre-cursors to much more serious offending. We will continue our efforts with partners to create an environment, so that women and girls can feel safe on the streets of West Yorkshire.
“A key aspect of this work is addressing attitudes and behaviours of men and boys, particularly through raising awareness, and education. This is not only to prevent offending and reduce reoffending, but to also encourage positive role modelling and advocacy in this vitally important area.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United. With a digital subscription, you'll see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.