POLICE in Somerset are changing the way they deal with rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).
The new approach, named Project Bluestone, was developed in partnership with leading academics and in consultation with partners across the criminal justice system, as well as victim services.
In addition to being rolled out locally, Project Bluestone is set to inform a national change in the policing approach to rape and serious sexual offences after being hailed as ‘pioneering’ in the Government’s Rape Review, published last Friday.
Having completed the research phase, Avon and Somerset police have made immediate improvements and are now testing and adjusting the recommendations presented by Project Bluestone to improve the force’s response to rape.
The key recommendations outlined in Project Bluestone are:
• A new ‘Gold Standard’ framework focusing on investigating the suspect and improving victim engagement
• A different way of policing, with specialist teams dedicated to RASSO investigations, which will both enhance victim contact and increase the chances of disrupting repeat offenders
• An outline of ‘Gold Standard’ for investigating RASSO cases including the use of data, closer liaison with victim support services, and enhanced training and support for investigators
Avon and Somerset Police has also committed extra resource to the investigations team with an additional 100 officers and 12 police staff investigators dedicated to investigating RASSO cases.
Research phase has been intense
Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: “The journey we have taken throughout the research phase of Project Bluestone has been intense, sometimes uncomfortable but extremely important for the future of rape and sexual offences investigations.
“We have one single shared purpose and mission, and that is to transform the policing approach to these traumatic offences, which we hope will help to influence, enable and support positive change in other parts of the Criminal Justice System.
“By lowering the bridge to academic researchers, we knew we were opening ourselves up to public scrutiny. But, we did this with our eyes wide open, willing to learn and to improve.
No prosecution in 97% of cases
“In Avon and Somerset 97% of rape and sexual offences reports will not even see a prosecution started. We are not unique in this; it is the norm across England and Wales.
“We’ve all heard the saying from Albert Einstein stating that ‘the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.
“The only way we can start to change the outcomes for victims of rape and sexual assault is by changing our processes when it comes to investigating these crimes. It would simply be madness to continue the way we have and expect different results.
“I’m proud that we have been brave enough to take these steps with our academic colleagues. I strongly believe that, together, we have created a new framework that could be one of the solutions to one of the most challenging issues in our criminal justice.
“I hope we are on the verge of something transformational that will improve the lives of many of our friends, neighbours and family who have suffered from these offences”.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse, recent or non-recent, you don’t have to speak to the police. You can self-refer to The Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre available 24/7 365 days a year. Visit their website at thebridgecanhelp.org.uk
or call 0117 342 6999