Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit

The East of England Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit is committed to improving the way in which we prosecute rape, serious sexual offences, child abuse and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The heads of the RASSO unit are Michelle Brown (Essex cases) and Sally Hickling (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk cases).

These types of offences have their own particular sensitivities and we want to improve public confidence in the way in which we review and progress cases of this nature.

As these cases are often complex, involving difficult and sensitive family relationships, it was decided that such cases should be managed by specialised lawyers and support staff who have received the appropriate training. The cases at court are dealt with by barristers and advocates who have the appropriate experience and ability and who have received the proper training.

Michelle said: "We want anyone who has been a victim or a witness of these crimes to report it to the police. If there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to prosecute in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we will liaise very closely and pro-actively with the police to build the best possible case to take to court.

"We want victims of sexual offences to take advantage of all available special measures to enable them to give their best evidence in court. This can, for example, include victims having their evidence recorded on DVD and then at trial being questioned via a TV link in a separate room or from behind a screen in court."

Case Study

The defendant in a Cambridgeshire case was a dangerous man towards women with a 20 year history of seriously assaulting previous partners, many of whom felt unable to pursue a complaint due to the fear of him. One partner did complain to the police about him and he was charged with three rapes and six assaults.

The East of England lawyer in the case was provided with details of all his previous offending, including some convictions, some charges which were not pursued due to women refusing to give evidence out of fear, and complaints which were withdrawn. There were more than 10 different women going back to 1992.

The lawyer called for all original crime reports and any case files. She asked police to trace and approach all of the previous victims and see if they were prepared to assist. Only one of them was and she agreed to give evidence. There were several women who were still in such fear of him, they declined.

Both women were so frightened of the defendant they said they could not look at him and so we made sure special measures were applied for in court so that screens could be provided to shield them and they gave evidence from behind them.

The lawyer also ensured that the officer who spoke with the victims made a statement to that effect which was then admitted under hearsay provisions and she also was successful in having the victims original statements made during previous court hearings admitted into evidence.

This was a difficult case where the victim did not want to have sex with the defendant and only agreed to do so because of fear of violence. Thanks to careful preparation, the defendant was convicted of three rapes, four assaults, two charges of criminal damage and one of affray.