CRIME prosecution rates in Dorset are ‘woefully low’ according to one councillor.

Only 14.4 per cent of reported crimes now results in a charge or a caution – less than half of what it was a few years ago.

Police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill says police forces had been told by former Home Secretary Theresa May not to be driven by statistics, which he says was a mistake.

“I know that Dorset people care about how many criminals are caught and we should have targets,” he told the county’s police and crime panel.

He said he pledged when elected to drive the then 20 per cent rate to at least 35 per cent and had succeeded in getting it to 32 per cent before the need to collect statistics was dropped and new priorities introduced…

”If you asked the public if they thought 14 per cent was acceptable I think you would struggle to find anyone who agreed,” he said.

Cllr Bobbie Dove described the figure as “woefully low.”

“I am sure that a lot of it is about a lack of cops but it is also because the police have been told not to be that worried about minor crimes, but 14 per cent is just too low and it needs to be higher.”

Said fellow panel member Iain McVie: “They have gone from drifting to falling off the edge of a cliff.”

The panel heard that some of the problem lay with underfunding of the local courts where they often struggled to get cases heard in time.

Mr Underhill said that some courts were so badly funded that there was, literally, plaster falling off the ceiling, but the real problem remained the time it took to get some cases before magistrates.

He said his main concern was in cases of domestic violence, which he said now accounted for one in three hearings: “The length of time it is now taking to get to court means that more victims are withdrawing. The courts are doing the best they can but it does impact on what the police can do. There is tensions everywhere because of austerity measures,” he said.

The 14.4 % figure is described as “a positive outcome rate” – the % of total crime that results in either a charge or a caution. It covers the period from April 1 until November 12th 2019.