A new team of lawyers dedicated to prosecuting rape and serious sexual assault been set up in Guildford.
The group, which was set up by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), will be a point of contact for specialist police units in Surrey, Kent and Sussex dealing with sex attack cases.
It is hoped that having specialist rape lawyers on hand for detectives will speed up the legal process for victims and increase low conviction rates.
CPS Lawyer Neil Sweet said: “If lawyers are off doing other things, in court or wherever, then officers might not be able to contact them as quickly.
“This enables those lawyers to be dedicated to just doing that particular work rather than having mixed profiles. The hope is it will have some effect on the speed and effectiveness of whole cases.”
According to figures released by the Association of Chief Police Officers last year, the proportion of rape court cases ending in a conviction in Surrey in 2010/11 was the lowest in the country at 54.5 per cent, a 10.7 per cent drop from the previous year.
The new group of rape specialists has been drawn from CPS South East’s existing legal team.
It follows the instigation of three similar teams – named Rape and Serious Sexual Offences or ‘RASSO’ units – in Leeds, Merseyside and Portsmouth.
Mr Sweet said he hoped the move would give ‘confidence to victims who will then be willing to come forward and stay on board in relation to prosecutions.
He added: “Public perceptions and public confidence in the system are crucial.”