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Today (Friday 16 July 2021) sees the publication by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) of a joint thematic inspection of the police and Crown Prosecution Service’s response to rape.
Assistant Chief Constable Ngaire Waine said: "We welcome the findings of this report, and take on board its recommendations to improve the support provided to victims of rape and increase opportunities to bring offenders to justice.
"We have a real commitment to preventing serious sexual violence and rape and the lifelong harm it causes. When offences occur we want victims and witnesses to be confident in the service our partnership provides here in Merseyside. That is why we have introduced a Strategic partnership forum in Merseyside to develop an approach that puts the victims first in all we do. We will also develop our approach to bringing more offenders to justice with the CPS.
"We are a learning organisation committed to improving the service we can provide to victims. As part of that commitment, we undertook our own internal review to identify areas for improvement last year. This thorough and frank self-inspection produced 25 key recommendations in February, many of which are mirrored by the subsequent suggestions of the HMICFRS in this report. Elements of that internal review have been implemented quickly and improvements already seen.
"But we owe it to the victims of rape to ensure that we fundamentally develop and improve the way we work, and a further review has been initiated to focus on the additional recommendations detailed in this report.
"Together with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the police service nationally is implementing a joint action plan which will involve officers working together with prosecutors at a much earlier stage to increase the number of cases being taken to court and the number of offenders being sent to prison.
"Here in Merseyside, we are committed to building on our strong relationship with colleagues in Mersey-Cheshire CPS so that victims here see the benefit of this work – with stronger rape prosecutions, more victims getting their say in court and the time taken to reach a charging decision minimised in future. We have already made great strides to improve our work with the CPS, with management meeting monthly to identify obstacles to justice and increase the pace of investigations.
“We are also taking Early Investigative Advice from the CPS and attending Early Case Planning Conferences, as recommended in the report, and we are keen to build on the progress this has already shown.”
ACC Ngaire Waine added: “I want to give the confidence to all victims that our officers will treat them with sensitivity, dignity and empathy. Please come forward, help is available’
“The report advocates the benefit of forces having a specialist rape investigation team. In Unity, Merseyside Police has had such a team for a number of years, and it is staffed with dedicated specialist investigators and specially trained victim support staff. They have built up the experience and expertise that enables them to address the unique concerns of victims, and the challenges investigations into sexual violence present.
“Rape is a uniquely horrifying experience and we know that victims need and deserve the best possible care from the moment they report an incident. As well as responding to individual concerns, we meet regularly with key partners who speak directly to victims including Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, Sexual Assault Referral Centres and Red Umbrella representatives to share learning and address concerns. This year, the pan Merseyside multi-agency partnership committed to setting up a Sexual Violence Strategic Group to co-ordinate resources and drive the swift introduction of improvements.
“Our ultimate aim is to protect people from becoming victims and while bringing offenders to justice is a significant part of this, we have also introduced measures aimed at preventing offending in the first place. Earlier this year, we set up a new proactive policing response, Operation Empower, which is aimed at preventing sexual violence in Liverpool city centre and town centres across Merseyside. Officers are tasked with identifying potential perpetrators displaying signs of predatory behaviour and disrupting those who present a potential risk, as well as ensuring anyone who may be vulnerable is safeguarded.
“The HMICFRS acknowledge that there are “dedicated professionals across the system who were unwavering in their efforts to do the right thing for victims”. I am proud to say we have many officers and staff here at Merseyside Police who match that description, and will continue to work tirelessly in the pursuit of justice for all victims of this most heinous of crimes.”