Force welcomes improvements to service for rape victims
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A new national project is set to improve the experience of victims, tighten the grip on offenders and tackle low charge and conviction rates when it comes to rape and serious sexual assault cases.
Changes are on their way as forces begin to put new guidance from a significant research project into practice, and focusing on suspects and prioritising victim satisfaction are just some of the key points that Derbyshire Constabulary is welcoming as part of a new framework, which launches today (Monday 10 July 2023).
Operation Soteria Bluestone is a national project that has been looking into the way forces investigate these types of offences. It takes learning from academic experts, policing experts and the government, diving deep into data as well as having case reviews and important conversations to find out exactly what needs to be changed.
As a result of the research, forces have been given a new framework, guiding officers to focus on suspects during investigations, disrupt repeat offenders, look for better ways of keeping in touch with victims as well as guidance and support for officers and staff investigating these cases.
The project is a joint effort between the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the Home Office.
Detective Chief Inspector Gaz Smethem from Derbyshire Constabulary said “We are extremely pleased to see this new model being launched.
“In Derbyshire, we already have our own dedicated team which cracks down on, and manages, repeat offenders, and we are continuing to fully develop their capability. We are absolutely dedicated to providing the very best service possible for victims and this is just one part of our unwavering efforts to keep improving this.
“These offences are distressing enough for victims and some of the changes aim to ensure that, when this is reported, the investigation doesn’t add to that. Victims are our top priority.
“In particular, focusing our investigations around the suspect will make a huge difference. Very often with the nature of these cases, it has been the victim and their account that has been examined and at the forefront. This can, understandably, begin to feel intrusive and distressing for the victim, so the project is switching that around.
“The norm will, and should, be to look at the suspect first and assess anything that may support a prosecution. We will also never take and keep certain items from a victim for an investigation unless it is critical and a last resort.
“We’re also keen to work with victims to find ways to better keep in touch with them and learn what they need, and are also working to improve the way we identify and manage any repeat offenders and suspects. This involves working closer with teams in force and our partners across the county on this.
“We hope no-one has to go through this, but if you or someone you know has experienced rape or sexual assault, please have the confidence to speak to us and report it. We will listen carefully and do everything we can to bring offenders to justice.
“If you’re not quite ready, that’s also okay. There are some great support organisations in Derbyshire who can help and we urge you to get in touch.”
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) allow victims to get confidential medical, practical and emotional support from specialists. We can refer you or you can refer yourselves, we don’t need to be involved. We understand you may not be ready to come to us immediately after an incident, but if you attend the SARC, they can retrieve and store important evidence which is then confidentially stored for 2 years. If you wish to speak to police later down the line, this can then be used as part of the investigation. Read more about Derbyshire’s dedicated SARC here: Millfield House – SARC (millfieldhousesarc.co.uk) or find your nearest centre on the NHS website: Find rape and sexual assault referral centres - NHS (www.nhs.uk)