THE “normalisation of sexual brutality on the internet” could be playing a part in a rise in sexual violence and rape cases, Essex’s crime commissioner has said.

Between 2015/16 and 2022/23 the number of reports of rape and sexual assault – of whom the vast majority of victims are women – went up 140 per cent from 1,001 to 2,420.

Numbers did fall slightly to 2,171 over the next 12 months.

Roger Hirst – the newly re-elected crime commissioner for Essex – said the figures show “there is a problem out there and we have to get to grips with it”.

He admitted there is a “very real issue” with a rise in cases and highlighted “the normalisation of sexual brutality on the internet”.

Mr Hirst said: “That is clearly a reflection of lots of different things happening. On the one hand, we have undoubtedly become more supportive of rape victims. And we have as a result had more women coming forward to report rape because they think there is a greater chance of achieving justice.

“But there is also a very real issue of the fact there is a rise in sexual violence - we don’t know the reasons -  over the last ten years.

“It could be the normalisation of sexual brutality on the internet, I don’t know. But it could be a variety of different things. I would hesitate to say the whole story is because the police have got better at helping people come forward.”

He said he was pleased that in the last 12 months there has been reduction of reports by 10 per cent – even given an improved rate of reporting.

He added: “It went up by 150 per cent and there is something societal there and there is something about police getting better there.”

He said: “We have a job to do. It’s an issue here. And it’s one to act on.

“The good news is a lot of the work around what interventions work has been done. We are now at the point where we can implement them.”

He added the police need help to bring more prosecutions – hampered currently he said by a chronic lack of capacity in the court service.

He said: “We have a new director of public prosecutions – I have already spoken with him twice about this particular issue. We need to be prosecuting more people. At the moment we prosecute when we and the  CPS are absolutely sure we have a case which will succeed. That is in part it’s good to be successful but it’s also in part because time and pressure on the court system are such. We are prosecuting too few.”