Rape Crisis responds to Dame Elish Angiolini report
“…this report shines an honest light on what the whole system must do to ensure victims and survivors get the very best service.”
In response to today’s (2nd June 2015) press release from the Metropolitan Police Service and Crown Prosecution Service about the independent review into the investigation and prosecution of rape in London, Rape Crisis England & Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said:
“Rape Crisis welcomes the commitment to transparency, scrutiny and improvement that the commissioning and publication of this report from Dame Elish Anglioni into the investigation and prosecution of rape cases represents.
It’s encouraging to hear both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police express such determination to improve the criminal justice experience for sexual violence survivors.
We’re particularly pleased that both services intend to implement recommendations such as an increase in specialist training without delay.
It should be noted, nonetheless, that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard positive sentiments such as these from criminal justice agencies and it is imperative now that encouraging words are translated into real action and cultural change.
Rape Crisis fully supports any call for increased resourcing to meet the unprecedented demand from sexual violence survivors since Operation Yewtree; the need for specialist, independent Rape Crisis support and advocacy has never been greater and sustained, dedicated funding for such services must be recognised by the Government as an urgent priority.
Despite the rise in sexual violence survivors reporting to the police, we must not forget that the majority still choose not to pursue criminal justice; this choice is their right and makes them no less deserving of social justice, in the form of access to specialist Rape Crisis services.”
Full Metropolitan Police press release:
An independent review of how the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) investigate and prosecute rape cases has provided a timely, informative and candid overview of our joint-working practices; which will act as a framework for major changes in the future.
In June 2014 the Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders commissioned the right honourable Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC to conduct a victim-centred review of current protocols and procedures, and identify where improvements could be made.
This was as a result of a significant increase in the number of rape allegations made, either recent or non recent, in London in the year 2013 - 2014, following the high profile Operation Yewtree.
As part of the review, Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC scrutinised working practices, reviewed sample case files and consulted with victims and other organisations to build an overall picture of the service to victims.
The Commissioner said: "We commissioned this report from Dame Elish following the large increase in the reporting of rape. Year on year, victims have demonstrated the confidence to come forward and report this most horrendous of crimes.
"This increase has placed unprecedented demands on the whole justice system. Having personally visited the dedicated teams working on these investigations and seeing the pressure of their workload, I knew we needed to better understand what had to be done to move forward.
"Even though changes have been made - including the reallocation of murder teams to the rape command - this report shines an honest light on what the whole system must do to ensure victims and survivors get the very best service. I am determined to lead an integrated response which will deliver a first class service with the victim at its heart.
"This report provides us with the route map to excellence that I wanted and will assist us convict those responsible for these most awful crimes and provide the victims with the justice they deserve."
Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London Baljit Ubhey, said:
"Rape is an abhorrent crime which can have a devastating, and long term, impact on the lives of victims. It is a crime which is seriously under-reported with many victims feeling unable to tell anybody about their traumatic experience. For those individuals who do come forward, all agencies must work together to ensure that they are provided with the support they need.
"That is why I am fully committed to ensuring our responses to the recommendations in this report are put into action.
"Many aspects of the recommendations within the review have already begun, but we must never forget that the changes and improvements we make should all be working towards our goals of providing a better service to victims and holding perpetrators to account.
"I am confident that by embracing the findings of the review and delivering this change our service to victims of rape in London will improve."
Published today, Tuesday 2 June, the report acknowledges that the vast majority of officers within the command work extremely hard; want the right outcome; and push themselves to the extreme. In particular, those who perform the role of Sexual Offences Investigative Techniques (SOIT) were found generally to be very positive across the board. They provide the role of liaison with the victim once the investigation process has commenced, offering vital care and support.
The review also recognises the sound and expert reasoning of prosecutors from the CPS London Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit (RASSO), their mature insight and good communication with victims when explaining decisions.
The report does however identify a number of areas where change is required; culminating in a list of 46 recommendations, half of which are applicable to the police alone; eight apply to both the police and CPS jointly; and three applicable to the CPS alone. These recommendations address areas including resourcing, improved training, enhanced victim care and a broader spectrum of partnership working.
A multi-agency working group has been established, the role of which is to progress these recommendations. This work has already begun. In addition to this, a new London scrutiny panel will examine London cases of violence against women and girls, with a view to improving performance and identifying areas where more needs to be done. This panel will be made up of CPS London and the MPS, and those who can represent the views of victims. Dame Elish Angiolini has agreed to chair this panel.
The MPS accepts there is an immediate need to increase the number of specialist sex offence investigation techniques trained officers and investigators on the command.
Both organisations are conducting a pilot initiative to co-locate a specialist rape lawyer in each of the investigation bases in London. This will ensure a more timely and co-ordinated assessment of evidence and improved decision making leading to higher quality cases being put before the courts.
The MPS also fully support the development of a mandatory training programme for those officers who provide the first response to rape victims and the introduction of a bespoke training course for specialist rape investigators. These will start as soon as possible. The CPS will also deliver further training of prosecutors on key issues such as consent, myths and stereotypes and the vulnerability of victims.
Police are also consulting with partners on the provision of a centralised and unified Haven centre of excellence operating 24/7.
Both the MPS and the CPS agree with the finding that there is a great need for increased numbers of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors to ensure that an enhanced service is available to all victims across London. It is intended to raise this issue with both the Home Secretary and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime for their consideration.