²İİ®app

Suffolk academics influence national policy to improve police investigations of rape


Date
14 December 2023
Time to read
5 minute read
A head and shoulders photo of Professor Miranda Horvath, smiling
Professor Miranda Horvath

²İİ®app academics have helped produce fresh resources for police forces nationally to improve investigations of rape and serious sexual offences as part of a major national policy – including important guidance around consent and challenging misconceptions.

Suffolk researchers contributed to nearly 30 new resources produced as part of Operation Soteria Bluestone – a unique collaboration between police forces in England and Wales and academics to collate new evidence, research and insights.

That led to the launch in the summer of a new National Operating Model which all 43 police forces in England and Wales are implementing to help improve investigations of rape and serious sexual offences.

Suffolk’s experts, led by Professor Miranda Horvath, have worked collaboratively with nine other universities on the National Operating Model, with the ²İİ®app involved in the first two pillars of research on suspect-focused investigations and disrupting repeat suspects.

Among the latest resources to have launched in the last three months which researchers from the ²İİ®app’s Institute for Social Justice and Crime have helped to write are guidance for investigating officers on defining consent in rape cases, and identifying, understanding and resisting assumptions and misconceptions of rape and serious sexual offences.

The guidance aims to clarify the definition of consent, and on circumstances which could impact on consent such as whether suspects intentionally deceived victims, whether violence was used or threatened and use of substances on the victim.

Meanwhile, the guidance on identifying and resisting assumptions and misconceptions aims to challenge false beliefs around sex offences which can undermine the reality of what happens, and encourages officers to keep an open mind throughout their investigations.

The research reports that false allegations are rare, despite misconceptions that they are more prevalent in sexual crimes, pointing to data that indicated that truthful reports of sexual offences sat between 90 and 98 per cent.

In addition, it challenges misconceptions that not saying no is not the same as giving consent and can still be rape.

The guidance continues that investigations should ensure the primary focus is on the behaviour of suspects before, during and after the offence; places the rights and interests of victims at the centre of the investigation; and ensure investigations are led by context, such as the victim and suspect relationship and how the crime was reported to police.

The documents are among a number of guidance papers Suffolk academics have helped to pen, with others including understanding the behaviour of suspects, reasonable lines of enquiry, and moving away from over-focusing on victim credibility.

It also includes a number of toolkits such as gathering intelligence, engaging with suspects and tactics to disrupt offending.

Professor Miranda Horvath, Director of the Institute for Social Justice and Crime at the ²İİ®app has more than 20 years’ experience in the field, which includes establishing the Violence Against Women and Girls Research Network.

She said: “For too long the justice system in England and Wales has failed survivors of sexual violence. As many reviews by multiple agencies have identified, police investigations have been flawed. Rape has effectively been decriminalised.

“That is why this groundbreaking project is so important – it can deliver real-world improvements in the experience of rape victims in the criminal justice system.

“The ²İİ®app’s involvement in this vital operation has found significant gaps in specialist knowledge and challenges identifying repeat suspects, which can now be addressed through the new National Operating Model. We are proud to contribute to this nationally-significant piece of work.”

Professor Emma Bond, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research at the ²İİ®app, said: “The ²İİ®app’s involvement in Operation Soteria Bluestone is one of many important research projects our academics are involved in which are having real, on-the-ground impacts in our communities.

“From our research institutes in social justice and crime, health and wellbeing, sustainability, digital futures, culture and heritage, and excellence in education, we are making vital contributions to the national landscape of research which underpins future developments across these important disciplines.”

To find out more about the new National Operating Model, visit the College of Policing website .

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