SEX crimes have fallen by 16 per cent in Oxfordshire, while the number of suspects accused or charged has gone up, latest figures have revealed.

But campaigners fear it could mean victims are becoming too scared to come forward.

There were a total of 488 sex offences recorded by Thames Valley Police between April 2011 and March this year compared to 581 in the last financial year.

Natalie Brook, of Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, said: “The number of reported crimes is often low as many survivors will opt not to report, sometimes due to fear of not being believed, or because the chances of conviction are so low.”

She also said some feared being blamed for abuse, and some were scared of the personal medical examinations involved.

The statistics also show one third of sex crimes led to a suspect being charged or cautioned. The figure was 31 per cent last year, and 21 per cent the year before.

Miss Brook added: “The impact of low conviction rates on survivors of sexual abuse and rape can be devastating and it can further compound false beliefs that the event was in some way their fault.”

Last year there were 111 rapes with 33 resulting in a caution, charge or conviction. In Oxford, about 23 per cent of all crimes saw a caution, charge or conviction.

Lorraine Harling, 60, of Didcot, was raped and beaten by her former fiance John Hinton before he was jailed for 10 years in 1999.

At the time she waived her right to anonymity to speak about her ordeal to the Oxford Mail. But last night, she agreed the questioning victims faced in court put some people off.

She said: “If it happened to me again I would report it – you have to report it – but it would be tough to go through the court again. The system needs to change. It needs to be more supportive to the women.”

There was a string of sex attacks in East Oxford, Cowley and Blackbird Leys last year.

But overall the number of serious sexual assaults fell from 416 to 348 – a drop of 16 per cent. Less serious crimes fell by 10 per cent.

Det Supt Paul Hayles said the statistics were a positive sign, but the force was not complacent.

He said: “We have worked hard to put in place systems enabling victims to come forward and disclose sexual offences.

“We are continually working to improve service to victims by detecting these crimes and bringing offenders to justice.

“We remain committed to ensuring victims have the confidence that a full and thorough investigation will always be carried out.”