Reported sex attacks rise in Devon and Cornwall by about 40%

The number of rapes and serious sexual offences reported in Devon and Cornwall has risen by about 40% in three years.

But since 2008 convictions have gone down by 30%.

According to figures released by Devon and Cornwall Police, there were about 400 sexual attacks reported in 2008 and by the end of 2010 there were 550.

The force said the increase could be because domestic violence victims are now routinely asked if they have been sexually abused.

'Weighted against women'

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Thorn, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "It is very difficult to say, definitively, what the reason is.

"The fact that people are feeling more confident to report is a good reflection that their cases are being taken seriously."

Linda Regan, a trustee of a new rape crisis centre due to open in Devon later this year, told BBC News: "The encouraging of reporting has had an impact.

"I still don't think that there is any evidence to suggest that the vast majority of rape and sexual assaults are being reported to the police."

Speaking on BBC Radio Devon a victim of rape told the station: "I feel that the court process, giving evidence, is very difficult for women.

"It is absolutely weighted against women."

Det Chief Insp Thorn said the conviction rate was low because some cases begun last year were still going through the courts.

He also said that Devon and Cornwall police had an 85% conviction rate for those charged with a crime.

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