Hertfordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner is looking at greater scrutiny for rape allegations that don’t get to court.

David Lloyd believes the low prosecution rate – teamed with practices such as removing a victim’s mobile phone – could have an impact on whether victims come forward.

He is considering a ‘rape scrutiny panel’ in Hertfordshire to scrutinise cases that did not progress – either because there was judged there was no crime committed or it did not meet the threshold for charges.

He believes scrutiny panels can provide insight into the effectiveness of police investigations, as well as identifying ways the management and investigation of cases could be improved.

And he has committed to looking at how similar panels work elsewhere and whether they should be introduced in Hertfordshire.

Speaking at a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on Thursday (September 19) Mr Lloyd acknowledged rape can be “really difficult" to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

He says he is encouraged by the increasing number of victims coming forward to report the crime.

But he says he is concerned by the number of cases that are passed to the CPS by the police – but not progressed.

In 2017/18, Hertfordshire Constabulary referred 56 allegations of rape to the criminal prosecution service (CPS) – but the decision was taken not to charge in 21 of those cases.

Of the 34 that were taken to a court, 28 led to a conviction.

Mr Lloyd accepts the CPS has decide whether there is a case to answer – but he suggests that bar is being set too high.

He believes the CPS is almost getting to a ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ barrier, before deciding to proceed.

“I think there should be a level of ‘is there a case to answer’ rather than ‘is it proven’,” said Mr Lloyd.

He added: “I am really concerned that as people find out the really low level of conviction of rape, people who have been victims of crime will think, ‘is it worth going through this if they are not going to get a conviction?’.

“There is a danger brave people won’t talk."

Mr Lloyd also fears taking away mobile phones to look for data as part of an investigation might deter victims from coming forward.

He said: “I think there’s a fall-off of the number of people wishing to come forward. I think it will get worse if we don’t get that bit right.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to give my phone up for several months  – and if I were a vulnerable person I would worry about what may be taken from my phone as well as useful information."