WILTSHIRE Police are leading the way in detecting rapes, but numbers of sexual offences against children have doubled in the county since 2009, according to figures from the Rape Monitoring Group.

Following a consistent rise in recent years, the numbers of adult rape cases reported to police in Wiltshire have now fallen for the first time, from 107 in 2012 to 76 in 2013.

But offences against children under 16 years of age have shot up in the last four years, from 46 in 2009 to 83 in 2013. That puts the recorded crime rate against children in Wiltshire at 62.7 per cent, slightly above the national average of 59.5 per cent.

Elsewhere the picture is more positive, as the rate of crimes solved by the force in Wiltshire is far above those in many other local authorities.

For adult rape cases the sanction detection rate was 28 per cent compared with 18 per cent nationally, and for offences against children last year it came in at 43 per cent, against a 31 per cent average across England and Wales.

This leaves Wiltshire as the fourth highest performing force for adult rape cases and fifth highest for child rape cases.

But it is widely recognised that rape is underreported by as much as 85 per cent, leaving recorded figures less representative of the reality.

Andy Tatam, assistant chief constable of Wiltshire Police, said: "Today's report gives a national picture as to how rape is being handled by police forces. The Rape Monitoring Group are doing important work to make sure that police are consistent in how they deal with sexual offences.

“In Wiltshire Police’s case, an HMIC inspection in 2012 showed a proportion of incidents which should have been recorded as a crime had not been. In other words, the crimes were being investigated but not classified correctly.

“As a result, we have made changes in the recording practices to ensure that these crimes are recorded correctly and in line with the Home Office Counting Rules. “I am completely satisfied that we are doing everything we can at the moment to ensure the integrity of our statistics and therefore public confidence in the crime figures.”

Detective Superintendent Nick John, Wiltshire Police lead for rape and sexual offences, said it was vital every case is reported.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for victims to find the confidence to report rape to us,” he said. “Rape is a traumatic and devastating crime but we do everything we can to help a victim, treating them with respect and care.

“Wiltshire Police have reviewed recording of rape crimes and we now have a better way of working in line with the Home Office Counting Rules.

“This is about the victims of this crime and we work hard to ensure the difficult process of talking about what happened is made as easy as possible. “We work closely with the Sexual Assault Referral Centre, and working with our partners we continue to be dedicated to tackling this crime and prosecuting offenders."