2015-07-15 by Call Me Sunshine
Met Chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe says rape will be given the same priority as counter terrorism, but warns that hundreds more officers will be needed if the force is to avoid being overwhelmed
Photo: Geoff Pugh
1:34PM BST 02 Jun 2015
The surge in reported rapes following the Jimmy Savile scandal is threatening to overwhelm police and prosecutors, a report has warned.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said the force was “creaking” under the strain of a 68 per cent increase in the number of victims coming forward, with specialist detectives suffering “burnout” because of their increased workload.
The Met, which is Britain’s biggest police force, has pledged to give sexual offences, including allegations of historic abuse, the same priority as tackling terrorism, but Sir Bernard warned that hundreds more officers would be needed to fill the shortfall.
This comes at a time when the force has seen its budget cut by 15 per cent, with further similar reductions expected later this year.
The independent report, which was commissioner by Sir Bernard and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders in the wake of the Savile scandal, was prepared Scottish lawyer, Dame Elish Angiolini.
Presenting her findings, which include 46 recommendations aimed at improving the service and support offered to rape victims in the criminal justice system, Dame Elish said: “Successive Governments have actively promoted the increase in reporting of rape. There is an urgent need to ensure that the system is not overwhelmed because of a failure to fund the positive outcome of that policy.”
The 161-page review found a 68% rise in rape and penetrative offences recorded by the Met from 2005/6 to 2013/14. However, there was only a 17% increase in offences charged within that time, the figures show.
The report stated: “Whatever the reason, it is clear that the increase in reporting is putting an overwhelming burden on staff and concern is expressed about the Metropolitan Police Service’s ability to effectively manage its increasing workload.”
Among the recommendations was a call on the Government to enshrine in law the principle that if someone loses the capacity to consent to sex because they too drunk, it is considered to be rape.
While the Court of Appeal clarified the issue in a case law ruling in 2007, Dame Elish said putting the law on the statute books would send a “powerful social message” to society.
She found that some overworked rape detectives had the view that prosecutions were bound to fail if the alleged victim was drunk and held the view that “here we go again”.
The report found that detectives working within the Met’s Sapphire rape investigation team had an average of 15 live cases at one time, which one described as “virtually nonsensical”.
Sir Bernard said he accepted the recommendations but added the force would need Government support if it was to succeed in implementing all the changes needed.
He said: “There is no ‘no-risk’ option going forward, something will have to give. It’s vital that we invest in this area more than we have before.
“We will look to Government to see if there is anything they can do to support us. But either way, we have got to get better in terms of sexual offence investigations and in terms of reporting.”
Katie Russell, for the charity Rape Crisis England and Wales, said it was “encouraging” for the Met and CPS to “express such determination to improve the criminal justice experience for sexual violence survivors”.
She said: “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.”