Reporting and Investigation of Rape and Sexual Offences – Operation Soteria
Most of my police career I was trained to respond to victims of serious sexual offences for children and adults. In my latter years I qualified as a trainer to deliver sexual offences training and Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) training amongst other courses. Like many officers who were trained to respond to victims it was a hard job, and many officers became burnt out and felt unsupported, some even suffered with secondary post-traumatic stress.
In 2002 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate published a joint thematic inspection report known as Without Consent which was a joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences. The report made a total of 18 recommendations and three suggestions to improve the investigation of rape cases by the police, guidance, and training for both the police and prosecutors, the decision making and the prosecution of rape offences, and the treatment of victims and witnesses. I was really pleased to read and see the changes being implemented, an important change was the implementation of Sexual Assault Referral Centres and a thorough training programme for police officers wishing to take up this role.
I remember how hard we all worked in crime training at the time to improve the training programme, and change mindsets of officers regarding victims and investigations. We spent a lot of time helping officers understand the meaning of true consent.
Before the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 went live there was no clear definition of consent, thankfully this legislation provided a clear definition, however, I have found through my training over many years, there is still little knowledge out there about what is meant by true and informed consent.
Operation Soteria Bluestone is a national project which will ensure investigations are victim-centred and suspect-focused.
I was deeply saddened to read the findings of the Op Soteria Bluestone Report published on the 14th of April 2023, a huge amount of hard work has been achieved with an aim to improving outcomes for victims of rape and sexual offences. Having read the report it felt like police forces had gone back twenty years since the publication of Without Consent.
All 43 forces in England and Wales support the scheme, which was launched on Monday, 10 July 2023. The national operating model ensures investigations are victim centred, suspect focused and context led.
My key aspects from the Op Soteria Bluestone Report: –
- One in three reported rapes occurs in the context of domestic abuse.
- There is a substantial overlap between sexual offences and domestic abuse.
- Trust and confidence were placed at the centre of Op Soteria.
- There was a lower rate of trust from people with different backgrounds for example people with disabilities.
- There is a large difference in rates of rape recorded between police forces.
- Police investigations continually focused on victims’ credibility whilst equal importance should be focused on offender’s behaviours.
- Inexperienced investigator’s.
- Poor support for police officers investigating these serious crimes.
- Further understanding is required relating to grooming methods, manipulation and coercion.
- Most reported rapes are male offenders, and most victims are female.
- Men can be victims and women can be perpetrators.
- Both men and women are perpetrated by men and women are perpetrated by men.
- The usual myths of what constitutes a ‘real rape stereotype’.
- A true sexual assault can only involve a stranger attacking victims in dark alleyways whereas most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim had known.
There is much more to this report, the link is attached below >
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