A newly released report from the Women's Rights Network reveals that dozens of alleged rapes and sexual assaults within Hertfordshire's hospitals were reported to police between 2019 and 2022.

A response to a Freedom of Information request shows that between January 2019 and October 2022, Hertfordshire police received 72 reports of alleged sexual assaults taking place within the county's hospitals.

In the same period, they received 34 reports of alleged rapes taking place within the same hospitals.

The figures include alleged incidents across all hospitals in the county, whether run by the NHS or privately.

All of the alleged rapes were reported as having taken place in wards or residential settings, while 14 of the alleged sexual assaults were reported to have taken place in clinical settings.

Five suspects were charged in connection with alleged sexual assault offences, while nobody was charged in connection with any of the 34 alleged rapes.

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According to the report by the Women's Rights Network (WRN), published this week and authored by Jo Phoenix, professor of criminology at the Open University, police forces across England and Wales received 6,500 reports of alleged rapes and sexual assaults taking place in hospitals between 2019 and 2022.

Jo Phoenix said: "The figures that WRN has uncovered are shocking and prove that NHS Trusts are failing in their duty to protect both patients and staff.

"Further, the fact that 95.9 per cent of all reports were either no-further-actioned or not recorded is also truly appalling.

"Although there are no reasons given within the research for this alarmingly low figure, what is clear is that there appears to be ingrained inertia in dealing with this safeguarding and policing failure."

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: “We fully understand the devastating impact that rape and sexual assault can have on victims and take every report seriously, no matter what the circumstances.

"We want everyone, of any sexual orientation, to feel confident in being able to report incidents to police.

"We have specialist officers on hand to provide advice and support and will always strive to do everything we can to gather evidence, investigate and bring offenders to justice.

"Becoming a victim of sexual assault is never your fault.

"If you’ve been a victim, no matter how long ago the offence occurred, please report it.

"If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with police straight away, you can still seek advice and support from the Herts Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

“Our work is continuing to tackle violence against women and girls in all forms and we’re working closely with our partners as part of this.”

Adam Sewell-Jones, chief executive of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said: “We were shocked and saddened to read about the number of sexual assaults which have taken place in a range of hospital settings across Hertfordshire.

“At our four hospitals – which include the Lister in Stevenage and the New QEII in Welwyn Garden City – we take all reports of this nature extremely seriously and would like to reassure our local community that we have a number of systems and established processes in place to help prevent such incidents from occurring.

“If any patient feels uncomfortable whilst in our care, we would encourage them to speak to a member of staff who will be able to offer them advice and support.”

Tracey Carter, chief nurse at West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously.

"Our safeguarding teams work hard to provide a safe environment for our patients, and we have an independent sexual violence advisor who provides support and advice for patients and staff.”