All 43 territorial police forces across England and Wales and the 14 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Areas will now begin implementing a transformative new approach to rape investigations and prosecutions, improving support for victims and putting the focus on the suspect.

Known as Operation Soteria, and piloted in 19 police forces and 9 CPS Areas already, the programme brings together police forces and prosecutors with academics to use evidence and insight to change the way rape and sexual offences are dealt with.

Working closely with pilot forces , leading academics have developed two new National Operating Models, one for the investigation of rape and one for the prosecution of rape, and all police forces and CPS Areas in England and Wales have committed to implementing them. 

There are early signs of improvements in the police forces already participating in the Operation Soteria programme:

  • All five pathfinder forces have seen an increase in the number of cases being referred to the CPS – more than doubling in West Midlands Police and Durham.
  • The number of cases being prosecuted by the CPS from Avon and Somerset have more than tripled.
  • All pathfinder forces have seen a reduction in the average days taken for a charge outcome to be assigned – with South Wales seeing a reduction of almost 300 days in the latest quarter.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Rape and Adult Sexual Offences, Chief Constable Sarah Crew, said:

“Rape is one of the most complex and challenging crimes the criminal justice system deals with. The roll out of the National Operating Model is a huge step forward in how we investigate crime and the experience victims receive.

“While we know there is more to do, the national operating model will see all forces adopt new processes, guidance and training to enable more victims to get the justice they so deserve. In order to improve trust and confidence, we have to show victims we are making significant changes and getting results. Operation Soteria offers this.

“We have opened up our doors to academics and to scrutiny. This has not always been a comfortable process. However, it’s an essential step towards achieving our goal of comprehensive and transformational change.”

And to further improve the response to rape, 2,000 extra police investigators will be specially trained in rape and sexual offences by April 2024. It will be compulsory for new recruits to undertake rape and sexual offences training, which will also be rolled out to all existing first responders.

Police and prosecutors will have access to better tools to improve their decision-making processes – such as a step-by-step guide for frontline investigators on conducting suspect focused investigations, and toolkits to ensure victims’ needs and rights are central to all investigations.

This will be backed by over £8 million in dedicated Home Office funding to continue to support police forces to improve their response to rape and the service they provide to victims, as well as to establish a Joint Home Office and NPCC Unit to oversee implementation of the National Operating Model.

The Home Secretary has commissioned His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to carry out a thematic inspection on forces’ implementation of the Soteria Model, and who will produce a report with findings in due course.

 

Table 1. Published police recorded adult rape offences, outcomes and timeliness and referrals to the CPS in Soteria Pathfinder Forces.

  Quarter before participation in Operation SoteriaLatest Quarter (Oct to Dec 2022)
Avon &Somerset  
 (participation in Operation Soteria began January 2021)
Recorded adult rape offences276                            369 
Volume of cases charged7                              22 
% of cases charged2.4%5.7%
Volume of victim withdrawal outcomes195                            249 
% of victim withdrawal outcomes67.9%64.2%
Number of referrals to the CPS2648
Average days taken for police to charge an offender758                            381 
Metropolitan Police (participation in Operation Soteria began September 2021)Recorded adult rape offences                       1,764 1,706 
Volume of cases charged                            45 80 
% of cases charged3.9%8.3%
Volume of victim withdrawal outcomes                          743                             611 
% of victim withdrawal outcomes64.8%63.4%
Number of referrals to the CPS65102
Average days taken for police to charge an offender                          194                            134 
Durham 
 (participation in Operation Soteria began January 2022)
Recorded adult rape offences                         120                             130 
Volume of cases charged                              3                               13 
% of cases charged2.6%12.6%
Volume of victim withdrawal outcomes                            53                               58 
% of victim withdrawal outcomes45.3%56.3%
Number of referrals to the CPS817
Average days taken for police to charge an offender                          246                            237 
West Midlands  
 (participation in Operation Soteria began March 2022)
Recorded adult rape offences                          839                             790 
Volume of cases charged                            20                               19 
% of cases charged2.0%2.1%
Volume of victim withdrawal outcomes                          737                             665 
% of victim withdrawal outcomes74.9%75.0%
Number of referrals to the CPS2654
Average days taken for police to charge an offender                          214                             126 
South Wales  
 (participation in Operation Soteria began May 2022)
Recorded adult rape offences                          209                             191 
Volume of cases charged                            10                               21 
% of cases charged4.9%10.1%
Volume of victim withdrawal outcomes                         110                             119 
% of victim withdrawal outcomes53.9%56.9%
Number of referrals to the CPS2545
Average days taken for police to charge an offender37577

Data sources:

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