Fewer than one in four rape cases brought to court by Essex Police result in a conviction, figures show.

Data, released by the Ministry of Justice, reveals that in 2017 only 23 per cent of Essex Police's prosecutions for rape were successful.

Last year the force brought 77 cases to court, and 18 resulted in convictions.

The conviction rate is lower than for other sexual offences, and it's also worse than other serious crimes such as grievous bodily harm which is 41 per cent.

Across England and Wales overall one in five rape cases are successfully prosecuted, according to the MoJ.

This data includes cases where rape is the principle or most serious offence, so incidents where the victim was killed would be counted as murder or manslaughter.

Det Ch Supt Steve Worron, Essex Police Crime and Public Protection command: "Rape can have a devastating effect on victims’ lives and we meticulously investigate rape allegations every day.

"We get more than 25 reports of rape every week and every one of those reports needs to be investigated and checks made to make sure victims are supported and offences identified. These crimes are among some of the most complex to investigate but the increase in reported allegations suggests more victims feel confident to report what’s happened to them.

"Our focus is on supporting that victim through what is an extremely traumatic time.

"We seek a criminal charge where we believe there is enough evidence and a realistic prospect of conviction.

"But there will be times where other ways of resolving the issue are more appropriate and also where for many reasons victims cannot support a prosecution or investigation. In all circumstances it’s important that we work with partners to provide longer-term support to them."

Dr Hannah Bows, senior lecturer in criminology at Teeside University, said that while it was hard to judge without knowing the details of cases, the figures were "particularly surprising".

She added: "Something is going wrong because the evidence required in rape cases to get a case brought to court is so high. Any question marks and the case is unlikely to go forward.

"That's why it's so frustrating when people say there are loads of false rape cases because it's not true."

Dr Bows is also concerned these figures will put people off from reporting rape allegations.

"It's a pretty horrible and pretty lengthy process anyway.

"Often the victim feels like they're on trial."

Dr Bows thinks there needs to be a complete reassessment of how rape cases are brought to court, as "what is happening now is clearly not working".

The data shows that prosecutions for Essex Police are getting more successful.

In 2016, 20 per cent of rape cases brought to court resulted in convictions.

The process of rape trials has been in the news after several collapsed at the turn of the year over problems with disclosure of evidence.

A CPS spokeswoman said: “We recognise that rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most complex cases prosecuted by the CPS and we have worked hard in recent years to improve how we deal with these cases.

"We have almost doubled the number of specialist prosecutors in our dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Units and improved the support we offer victims through criminal proceedings.

“In recognition of the unique challenges involved in prosecuting these offences and taking them to trial, the CPS is focused on building strong cases with all available evidence, including CCTV, eyewitness accounts and mobile phone evidence, and supporting victims throughout the process."