The number of harassment cases reported to Thames Valley Police hit a 10-year high last year, new figures show.

Experts said the rise might be driven by more people coming forward, but low charging rates show victims are “being failed by a system that doesn’t deliver”.

The total figure in England and Wales was the highest since comparable records began in 2002-03, with 271,000 cases of harassment reported by all police forces.

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Home Office figures show Thames Valley Police dealt with 9,632 harassment cases in the year to September 2023 – up from 7,892 the year before and the highest number it recorded in the past 10 years.

This was equivalent to an average of 26 cases reported every day in Thames Valley and a more than fivefold increase compared to nine years ago.

Katie Kempen, chief executive at the charity Victim Support said: “This stark rise in reported harassment could be down to a number of factors.

“Perpetrators can now harass people online, something we know is becoming ever more common – meanwhile, better public awareness could be leading to more people coming forward.

“Sadly, the true number of offences will be much higher, given that most victims do not feel able, or want to report to the police. Those who do report are being failed by a system that doesn’t deliver.”

Of the harassment cases recorded in Thames Valley, 301 resulted in a charge or summons, or just 3.1 per cent – less than the year before when 3.9 per cent did.

Ms Kempen added low charging rates are driven in part by police forces often failing to properly recognise cases of stalking and harassment or mixing up the two distinct crimes.

Across England and Wales, there were 679,000 harassment and stalking cases reported in the year to September 2023, with just 3.4 per cent resulting in a charge or summons.

Thames Valley Police received 3,991 reports of stalking and 312 racially or religiously aggravated harassment.

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Saskia Garner, head of policy and campaigns at the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “We know that many who have the courage to reach out and report to the police are often not believed or have their charges changed or dropped not reflecting the gravity of the impact on themselves.

“This often then deters them from continuing to pursue the case particularly as our research shows that in many cases communication from the criminal justice system professionals about the case is at best patchy and at worst non-existent.”

Ms Kempen said long and re-traumatising investigations can also lead to victims withdrawing, adding: “In the face of such enormous challenges, it is vital that victims have access to properly funded independent support services, to help them to cope, recover and rebuild their lives."