Rape Cases Should Get Same Police Focus As Counter Terrorism

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 37 months ago
Rape Cases Should Get Same Police Focus As Counter Terrorism

Photo by Chris Beckett from the Londonist Flickr pool

The Metropolitan Police is to put more resources into handling and investigating rape and sexual assault cases, following an independent review of the force's procedures (PDF). However, the Commissioner has said it will need more funding if it is to properly implement the recommendations, which he has pledged to do, also saying that rape should get the same police focus as counter terrorism.

The report's author, Dame Elish Angiolini, told Channel 4 News that officers were suffering from "compassion fatigue" having to deal with so many cases at once — up to 25, in some instances. The number of offences being reported has risen from 3,079 in 2005-2006 to 5,179 in 2013-2014. This is good, as we all know rape and sexual assault is hugely under-reported. However, in the same period that reporting rose 68%, the number of charges brought rose only 17%; some of those cases dismissed were being done so without advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.

The blame for this is being placed on staffing levels — the report uses an unfortunate choice of language in describing pressures as an "overwhelming burden" on staff, which (unwittingly, we hope) creates an uncomfortable comparison between the sufferings of officers and that of victims — but budget cuts won't help. The Met has already lost 15% of its budget and expects to lose another 15% shortly. Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe will ask the government and City Hall for more officers but if help isn't forthcoming, acknowledges that police may need to be redeployed from elsewhere.

The review makes 46 recommendations, some of which include changing the law to include an understanding that if — we paraphrase — someone is so wasted they can't possibly consent to sex, it's considered rape; removing the ability for first response officers to dismiss a claim of rape, leaving a decision to specialist officers from the Sapphire unit; making Sapphire 24 hours to acknowledge the tendency of sexual assaults to happen at night; and mandatory training for all officers in forensic evidence retrieval.

Last Updated 03 June 2015