Of those reported, only 77 have made it as far as a court hearing with only 46 ending with someone being found guilty.
The Guernsey Press investigated the matter in depth after islanders spoke out earlier this year about their own experiences of sexual assault at a vigil held locally to pay tribute to women who had lost their lives to gendered violence.
Last year, 127 crimes were recorded where an allegation of a sexual offence was made. Of these, 41 did not support police action, two alleged offenders were unidentifiable or deceased, and 23 cases had enough evidence for police to charge a suspect with a specific offence. Twelve of the court cases resulted in a guilty verdict.
The previous year, 143 reports were made, 62 did not support police action, three alleged offenders were unidentifiable or deceased, and nine cases went to court. Five ended in a conviction, just 3.5% of the reports made. Guernsey Law Enforcement said that police assessed the effectiveness of its investigations on the ‘outcomes of crimes’, not only convictions.
‘Only when enough evidence has been gathered in the course of an investigation into an alleged crime will a suspect be charged with an offence,’ a spokesman said.
‘When the evidential threshold has not been met, the matter may be held pending any further evidence coming to light.’
One investigation is still pending from 2019, and 24 from last year.
‘Sexual offences can be challenging to investigate, so specially-trained officers are used to conduct these enquiries,’ the spokesman said.
Detective Inspector Lisa Sylvester works on the public protection unit, which involves all cases of child abuse, rape, domestic abuse and serious offences within domestic relationships. She said genuinely false accusations were few and far between.
‘We fully investigate and follow all reasonable lines of inquiry, and no-one is judged for coming forward,’ she said.
‘If those inquiries take us to the point in the following days that this is a false accusation, that will be dealt with separately, but every report is investigated the same, with the same professionalism.
‘There is some public perception that if the accused is not charged, they did not do it, but that’s not necessarily the case.’
Having insufficient evidence to charge does not mean the police do not believe the victim, and it does not mean an offence did not happen, she said.
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Guernsey Police said it was committed to thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual offences and ‘will pursue all lines of enquiry to ensure as many perpetrators as possible are put before the courts’.
A proactive approach is taken, even when witnesses are reluctant to support police action, and officers look to ensure support is available to victims.
‘Sexual offences are treated as serious crimes and, while Guernsey remains a safe place to live and work, we are not immune to serious offences taking place,’ the spokesman said.
‘We will continue doing all we can to help people feel safe and would always urge victims of crime to come forward and seek support.’