Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles has taken a closer look at the Constabulary’s response to rape and sexual assault in the county as part of a drive to offer greater support to victims.
In his first Police and Crime Plan, Commissioner Charles outlined a commitment to protect vulnerable people in Derbyshire and enhance the service victims receive. In line with his aims, Commissioner Charles ordered a special report into the investigation of rape and serious sexual assault in the county to enable him to review progress and identify any weaknesses.
The scrutiny report comes on the back of increased media and political attention surrounding the issue of rape and sexual assault following high-profile investigations around the activities of media personalities Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, which have raised questions about how criminal justice agencies should respond to this type of crime.
The resulting research, which was presented to members of the Strategic Governance Board, revealed incidents of rape and serious sexual offences in the county fell 25% between 2010/11 and 2012/13 from 814 to 611. During the same period, the number of successful prosecutions in the county fell slightly to 67% although the figure is broadly in line with other East Midlands forces.
The scrutiny report looked at the management of violent and sexual offenders undertaken by the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in the county. Figures show that as of the end of May this year, 928 Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) were at liberty and 265 were in custody. The number of offenders managed within the MAPPA framework continues to increase each year which is partly due to the Force’s proactive work in targeting both on-line and direct contact sex offenders. The Force has increased staffing within its Dangerous Persons Management Unit (DPMU) and is now better placed to manage the risk posed by these individuals.
The Force analyses all reports of rapes every month looking for common themes including repeat victims and serial offenders. Where repeat victims have been identified, these have received support through the Sexual Offence Liaison Officers (SOLO), the Crisis Workers at the Sexual Abuse Referral Centre (SARC) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVA).
In addition, an Independent Rape Scrutiny Panel, comprising victim support group Derbyshire Friend, SV2, Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVA) and the Criminal Justice Board, operates independently of police and meets bi-monthly to examine the decision-making process during specific cases. The Commissioner receives reports from this Panel as part of his oversight role.
At its December meeting, the panel reviewed cases in which the CPS had discontinued cases post-charge under the guidance of a CPS barrister. For the first time ever, the panel strongly disagreed with the decision not to proceed in one case and the chair has written to the CPS to formally express the Panel’s concerns about the decision. In other discontinued cases it reviewed, the Panel were very positive about the thoroughness of investigations and supported the decisions made while understanding the issues preventing progress.
Working with partners, the Force is continually looking at ways of improving the support of victims of rape and sexual offences to encourage more people to report crime. The Domestic Violence and Serious Sexual Violence Governance Board (DV/SSV), for example, is currently looking at increasing access to Sexual Abuse Referral Centre (SARC) facilities in the north of the county to improve satisfaction.
Commenting on the report, Commissioner Charles said: “Victims are at the very core of policing and everything we do should be aimed at helping them to recover better and get the justice they deserve in the best possible way. The trauma faced by victims of sexual assault can have lasting repercussions on their lives and it’s our duty to protect them and give them confidence in going through the justice process. This is why I am determined to maintain a watchful eye on the way we handle such incidents in Derbyshire to ensure we are doing absolutely everything to improve their policing journey and encourage more people to report these horrific crimes.
“Sexual offence figures are currently falling and we’ve not seen the anticipated spike in numbers following the high-profile national investigations regarding Jimmy Savile, however I would like to see improvements in the conviction rate locally. Strengthening our capacity to investigate crime in this area will require resources and I’m keen that the Force receives the tools it needs to deliver progress.”
Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401
Posted on Monday 29th July 2013