DORSET Police remain ‘committed to bringing criminals to justice’ despite record low charge rates.

The charity Victim Support said the low proportion of criminal suspects charged across England and Wales threatens to undermine the entire criminal justice system.

Home Office figures show that of the 12,463 investigations concluded in Dorset between April and June, just 880 resulted in charge or summons – 7.1 per cent.

This was down from 10.4 per cent during the same three months in 2020, and the lowest level for the period since comparable records began in 2014.

Across England and Wales, the proportion of offenders charged or ordered to be in court fell over this period from 9.4 per cent to 7.6 per cent, which was also a record low for the quarter.

Victim Support said the low volume of suspects taken to court has been a "major issue" for a long time, and it has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jeffrey DeMarco, assistant director at Victim Support said: “This has the real potential of seriously impacting victims’ security and wellbeing while also damaging trust and confidence in the wider criminal justice system.

"It can also make moving on after being victimised even more difficult."

Of the investigations closed in Dorset between April and June, 40 per cent were for violence against the person – the most common type.

This was followed by theft offences (30 per cent), and criminal damage and arson (13 per cent).

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Lyne from Dorset Police said: "We understand the public’s interest in detection rates and we all hold an expectation that those committing crime in our communities are brought to justice.

“While in many cases seeking a criminal conviction is the most appropriate path, it is not the only criminal justice outcome available when investigating a crime. Dorset Police is committed to catching perpetrators of crime, but in some cases out of court disposals and initiatives such as restorative justice allow us to work with our partners to address offending behaviour and reduce the likelihood of reoffending by an individual. We will always look at the victim’s needs and put their wishes at the heart of outcomes.

"As well as striving to gain convictions and ensure our communities feel safe, alongside seeking a conviction, other measures including safeguarding vulnerable victims and responding to community issues or resolving anti-social behaviour can be equally important.

"Every reported crime is the subject of a detailed review and we will always ensure that any possible lines of enquiry are fully explored. We are committed to working with our criminal justice partners to ensure the public has confidence in local justice and that we are not missing an opportunity to proactively tackle criminal behaviour.”

ACC Lyne added: “Victims are at the heart of everything we do. Being a victim of crime will be one of the most significant things in an individual’s life on many occasions. Our commitment is to ensure Dorset becomes one of the safest counties in the country and work closer than ever with partners to reduce crime and bring offenders to justice.”