Independent review of rape cases – one year on

09/06/2016

A year on from the publication of an independent review into how police and prosecutors in London investigate and prosecute rape cases, significant work has been carried out to improve the criminal justice response to victims.

At the request of the Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC spent a year embedded with both organisations reviewing existing protocols and procedures.

The result was a candid and comprehensive report that produced a list of recommendations focusing on the need for improvement within areas including resourcing, training, victim care and partnership working.

The immediate need to increase the number of officers and investigators on the Met's Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command has been realised, with an additional 196 officers allocated to the command. CPS London has addressed the high caseloads in their Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit by significantly increasing the number of staff and reducing the number of cases per lawyer and caseworker in the unit.  In June 2015 there were 29 lawyers in the unit and there are now 41. Additionally, domestic violence cases have been removed from the unit to a separate dedicated DV team.

Recognising the effect increased workloads can have on officers' welfare, in addition to the uplift, the Met has also trained 25 Wellbeing Ambassadors to provide welfare support to officers and signpost them to advisory and support services.

A bespoke training package for first responders has been designed, which covers issues such as consent, myths and stereotypes, and vulnerability. Similarly, the CPS has trained all RASSO unit lawyers on the same issues. This training is now a standard part of the national induction and refresher training.

Research carried out by the Met to better understand what outcomes are important to victims and how they believe we should be measured have directly informed our performance indicators; work which will continue in the form of user satisfaction forms which will capture feedback and enhance the service we provide. It is also now protocol that when a decision to take no further action is made by police, a letter is sent to the victim explaining the rationale and offering a face-to-face meeting.

Both organisations have worked together to establish the best model for providing early investigative advice (EIA), which is currently available to all five police hubs and offered in all rape and serious sexual offences including those involving children. There have also been a number of joint workshops with CPS and police staff.

The Commissioner said: "I was determined we use the findings from this review to drive forward a vision for the future which is focused on increased reporting, bringing offenders to justice and providing a truly unique support system for all victims of sexual violence. I'm confident the changes we are seeing and which continue to be made will make this vision a reality. We are not there yet but we are on the road to developing a strong, collaborative approach to embedding a unique service in our criminal justice system."

CPS London Chief Crown Prosecutor, Baljit Ubhey, said: "I am pleased with the progress we have made over the last year and we have taken action on all of our recommendations. However, I am not complacent and I recognise there is still work to do alongside our partners. Our improvements have gathered real momentum and we are now in a position where we have very strong foundations to continue to improve our service to rape victims and bring perpetrators to justice."

Hong Tan, Head of the Health in the Justice commissioning team for NHS England (London) and member of the multi-agency working group, said: "We used the review's findings to carry out significant work to improve the health services we commission that protect and support victims of sexual violence in the capital - both for adults who were the focus for the Dame Angiolini review and for children, whose needs and issues were reviewed by NHS England (London)/MOPAC in 2013. Around a third of the survivors of sexual abuse in London are children and it's a priority for us to ensure they are cared for in a calm, caring and protective environment during what is a very traumatic time. To support this, we have just opened the country's first Child and Young People's Haven in Denmark Hill to provide child victims of sexual violence with the compassionate health care and support they need, in a tailor-made environment they will feel most comfortable in. We have also been successful in a joint bid with MOPAC and NHS England (London) to the Home Office to fund two Child Houses - a unique, supportive place of care, specifically for children and young people - the first of which will open in 2017.

North London Rape Crisis Service Manager of Solace, Emily Robertson, said: "As a frontline charity providing specialist and therapeutic services to survivors of all forms of sexual violence, we strongly support any work which improves women's experience of reporting rape and sexual violence and their journey through the criminal justice system. For too long women have been re-traumatised by the process of reporting and failures in the prosecution system, and this needs to stop."

ENDS

Read the joint press release following the publication of the review in 2015.