Just one in six child sexual abuse complaints in West Yorkshire ends up in court.
That's according to analysis of Home Office figures by the Examiner.
West Yorkshire Police recorded 2,363 outcomes for complaints of child sexual offences for the year ending March 2017.
But of those cases, just 392 ended in charges or a court summons, equivalent to 17% or one in six cases.
Some 29 cases ended in a caution.
In 895 cases police confirmed a crime had been committed and the victim supported police action, but problems with evidence prevented further
This includes cases where the suspect has been identified, but cannot be traced.
Overall, there were 1,374 cases where evidential difficulties prevented prosecutions, including cases where the victim did not want to proceed.
In one case in nine, or 266, the investigation was completed but no suspect was identified while in 82 cases, the prosecution were prevented because the suspect was underage.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: "Children who have been sexually abused have already suffered extraordinary trauma. Seeing their perpetrator brought to justice can be a crucial part of rebuilding their lives.
"As with all crimes there are many reasons why child sex offence cases don’t make it to court.
"However, it is vital that children are fully supported by appropriate specialists through the interviewing and evidence gathering process.
"When a case does not reach court it’s essential that the child has access to help and support to deal with the emotional impact it may have."
The national picture
Across England and Wales, 43,284 outcomes for child sex offences were recorded in the year ending March 2017.
Of those, one in seven, or 6,519, resulted in somebody going to court.
In more than half of the cases, or 22,890, evidential difficulties prevented further action despite the crime being confirmed.
In 6,152 cases the investigation was completed but no suspected was identified, while in 1,314 cases prosecution was prevented because the suspect was underage and in 392 cases the offender died before proceedings could be initiated.
There were 631 cases that ended in a caution.
Why do so few child sexual abuse complaints go to court? Some key points
- Child sexual abuse cases are some of the most difficult to prosecute.
- The cases may historic which means gathering evidence can be particularly difficult.
- Court action may not be appropriate in some cases, for example a consensual relationship between two slightly underage people.
- The victim may not want to proceed if reliving their abuse in court is traumatic and is unlikely to result in a prosecution.
What West Yorkshire Police say
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Cases of sexual offences involving children can be among the most complex and sensitive to investigate and in West Yorkshire our focus is on putting the victim first and always seeking a CPS charging decision where there is evidence to do so.
“The number of cases resulting in charges in West Yorkshire is in line with the national average but clearly we want these numbers to improve, particularly in cases where a lack of evidence prevented further action.
“We are working to improve the quality of investigations in the force area and have been working closely with the CPS with regards to cases involving children to maximise the chances of prosecution.
“It remains the case though, that these offences can be among the most difficult to prove, particularly in non-recent offences where there is no corroborative evidence.
“However the force’s record in recent years at securing the convictions of dozens of men in major CSE investigations in Bradford, Calderdale and Wakefield proves that we will do all we can to prosecute when the evidence exists.
“When looking at these offences, it must also be remembered that they span a wide range of crime types including some in which a court route is not in the best interests of the victim or perpetrator.
“These can include sexual relationships between consenting persons who may be slightly under the age of the consent and children sharing indecent images with each other.
“While these are sexual offences they can better be dealt with by means of education rather than criminalising young persons who may be unaware that they are offending.
“We guarantee victims and their families that all reports will be investigated and they will be dealt with in the most sensitive fashion by dedicated Safeguarding detectives and partners.
“Our focus is on them as victims and it will remain so.”