Thousands more police officers specially trained in rape offences

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Photo: NPCC

Policing in England and Wales have more than doubled a Government target for the number of officers given rape investigative training.

The target to train 2,000 officers by the end of April has been exceeded with a total of 4,540 having now completed the specialist course, known as the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Investigative Skills Development Programme (RISDP).

The College of Policing training was developed by working with leading academics with the aim of  training first responders so that victims receive the right support from their first contact with the police.

The work has been undertaken in collaboration with Operation Soteria, a Home Office funded unit which brings together police forces with academics and policy experts to use evidence and new insight to transform the policing response to rape and serious sexual offences.

Since Operation Soteria began, progress has been made across policing and the wider criminal justice system:

  • Arrest rates are up by a quarter: Police are arresting more sexual offenders, with arrests in 2022/23 rising by 25% compared to 2019/20.
  • More cases are being referred to prosecutors: Police are referring more adult rape cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, with 1,429 referrals in October to December 2023, up 142% from 590 in October to December 2020.
  • More suspects are being charged: Charges for sexual offences in the year to December 2023 were up by 18% compared with the previous year, and adult rape charges increased by more than a third (38%) in the same period.

The pioneering programme developed by academics and Avon and Somerset Police has transformed policing’s approach to investigating rape and sexual offences. It sees police and prosecutors working more closely together throughout the process and helps ensure investigations are focussed on the actions of the alleged perpetrator, not the victim.  

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Rape and Adult Sexual Offences, and the joint Senior Responsible Officer for Operation Soteria, Chief Constable Sarah Crew, said: 

“Rape is one of the most complex and challenging crimes we deal with in the criminal justice system, and it’s vitally important that as a police service we get our response right from the moment it is reported.

“Specially trained investigators are pivotal to achieving what we have set out to do through Operation Soteria: build strong cases, relentlessly pursue perpetrators and do better for victims.

“The data, and the introduction of thousands of specialist investigators, is an encouraging step on our journey to improve the criminal justice system for victims of rape.”

Assistant Chief Constable Tom Harding, Director at the College of Policing, said:

“Our aim was to provide training to rapidly up-skill officers and staff who investigate rape and serious sexual assault cases.

We have more than doubled the initial target of training 2,000 investigators and it is testament to the drive within police forces to tackle these horrendous crimes.

As of today we know there are 4,540 officers and staff who are now specially trained due to the efforts of police forces, the College and Home Office. There is much more to be done and our focus remains fixed on bringing perpetrators and protecting victims, mostly women, from harm.”

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