SUSPECTS of crime in Cheshire are less likely to be charged by police than five years ago, new figures suggest.

Data from the Home Office show that a suspect was charged or summonsed for just eight per cent of crimes recorded by Cheshire Police in the year to March 2020.

This meant someone was charged or ordered to be in court on 7,801 occasions over the year – 2,577 fewer than the previous 12 months.

The rate is much lower than in the year to March 2015, when 20 per cent of crimes resulted in a suspect being brought to justice.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “How can public confidence in the criminal justice system be sustained if fewer crimes are being dealt with and solved each year?

Northwich Guardian:

“The Home Affairs Committee has warned repeatedly that this is a consequence of police forces having been overstretched for many years, and a lack of a clear strategy or sufficient leadership from the Home Office to address this worrying fall in the number of crimes being solved."

The Home Office says it is the responsibility of chief constables and police and crime commissioners to make sure criminal cases are investigated properly.

The likelihood of a crime resulting in a charge could vary by how severe or complex the cases is, or how difficult it is to identify a suspect, the department added.

In Cheshire, 33 per cent of cases were closed as a result of no suspect being identified, while the victim did not support further action in 39 per cent of cases.

The county's figures reflected the picture across England and Wales, where the proportion of crimes resulting in a charge or summons dropped to 7 per cent in the year to March, down from 17 per cent five years earlier.

Deputy Chief Constable Julie Cooke, of Cheshire Police, told the Guardian that in hundreds of cases where a charge has not been brought forward, defendants had been 'dealt with via other means' – such as community resolutions, conditional cautions, penalty notices and restorative justice.

Northwich Guardian:

She added that the rates for Cheshire were above the national and north west averages, and suggested the figures for March to May 2020 show an increase in the number of charges over the same period last year, from 9.7 per cent to 15.3 per cent.

Dep Chf Con Cooke added: "Our officers and staff are committed to investigating all recorded crimes and bring those responsible to justice.

“However, we do acknowledge that in recent years there has been a reduction in the overall charge rate as reflected across England and Wales.

“This reduction is due to a number of different factors – the biggest being the nature and complexity of the cases which we now deal with, including county lines drug dealing, non-recent sexual offences and cyber-crime.

“These cases are complex and can be challenging as they generally take longer to investigate and often require specialist resources.

“I would like to reassure residents that Cheshire is a safe place to live and we are committed to doing all we can to reduce crime and bring those responsible to justice.

“Our officers and staff, as well as members of the Special Constabulary and other volunteers, are committed to working together with our partners in order to prevent crime, support victims and protect vulnerable people.”

To report crimes in Cheshire click here, call 101, or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

In an emergency – where a crime is taking place or there is threat to life – always dial 999.