More than 1,700 women reported being raped in Sussex last year – more than 30 a week – but just 50 rape trials took place and 22 men were convicted, according to new figures.
The data emerged days after the government announced a new pilot court scheme to try to increase low prosecution and conviction rates across England and Wales.
The initiative means that prosecutors, police officers and other staff at pilot courts in Newcastle, Leeds and Snaresbrook, London, will receive specialist training.
Any conclusions learned is expected to shared across the country to try to increase the volume and speed of rape cases going through the system.
The charity Rape Crisis said that the pilot scheme was a step in the right direction to tackle “appalling prosecution rates” but that more information was needed on how they would work.
Ministry of Justice figures recorded 50 rape cases reached court in 2021 after investigations by Sussex Police.
And of those, 22 resulted in convictions – up from 20 in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
But 1,739 alleged rapes were recorded by the force last year, according to separate Home Office data, meaning that just a fraction would end in a conviction.
Across England and Wales, there were 895 rape convictions – compared with 67,125 new cases.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said that the pilot courts, which were due to be operational from October, “will focus on improving support for victims, tackling the backlog and reducing delays”.
Mr Raab said: “We’re also rolling out pre-recorded evidence faster, recruiting 1,000 sexual violence advisers, developing a 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the justice they deserve.”
But Rape Crisis chief executive Jayne Butler said that not enough was known about how the specialist courts would work and insisted that a “proper consultation with specialist sexual violence support services” was needed.
She also said that low prosecution rates had “effectively decriminalised” rape and discouraged victims from coming forward and reporting crimes.
In Sussex, just 1.3 per cent of the 1,070 rape investigations concluded by police last year led to a charge or summons.
Some 12 per cent of cases were dropped because of evidential difficulties, despite the support of the victim and the suspect being identified.
A further 74 per cent were dropped because the victim did not support further action – and no suspect was identified in 9 per cent of cases.
Across England and Wales, just 2 per cent of 42,203 concluded investigations led to a prosecution.
Ms Butler said: “The vast majority of victims and survivors seeking criminal justice are being hugely let down by the system.”