Sussex Police set up new units after 42 per cent rise in reported rapes

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Three new police units in Sussex are increasing the force’s focus on abuse against vulnerable people after the number of reported rapes, domestic abuse and crimes against children shot up in the past year.

Sussex Police have set up combined Specialist Investigation Units (SIUs) in each of the three Divisions (East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton & Hove), to investigate both the criminal and safeguarding aspects of child protection, adult protection, and all rape and serious sexual assaults.

The change comes after the Force recorded a rise of 42 per cent in recorded rapes from 2013/2014 to 2014/2015, a 38 per cent rise in domestic abuse across the same time period and an 18 per cent increase in child protection crimes.

The force has already had, for several years, specialist Child Protection Teams and Adult Protection Teams, on each of the three divisions.

These teams have proved very successful, achieving valuable results and working closely with partners in statutory and non-statutory agencies to safeguard the public and particularly vulnerable people – said a police spokesperson.

However, up until now most reports of rape and serious sexual assault have been investigated by other fully qualified detectives, alongside their work on other crimes.

They have been supported by specially trained Sexual Offence Liaison Officers (SOLOs) who have been available, in addition to their other day to day work, to assist in the initial stages of investigations.

Some cases involving stranger rapes have been dealt with by the central Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team (MCT).

The new arrangement, bringing together all aspects of public protection, for the first time including rape and serious sexual assault, followed a request to the then National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to review the force response to rape and serious sexual assault.

A number of recommendations were made to further improve the service provided to victims, and the report suggested that the concept of dedicated rape and sexual assault investigation was worthy of consideration.

Detective Chief Inspector Jo Banks said, “Our existing systems have proved increasingly successful in protecting victims and bringing offenders to justice, working with our local authority and support agency partners.

“But the three new centrally managed Units, who are now managing the criminal and safeguarding investigations for child and adult abuse, high risk domestic abuse and rape and serious sexual offences, are a big step forward.

“Demand in these areas has increased significantly in the last few years. The new teams are working across all the investigations, providing a consistent and joined up approach for the victims and our partners with whom we work so closely.”

There are also now 14 SOLO (Sexual Offence Liaison Officer) posts on a full-time basis within the SIUs.

They are not investigating officers but are an integral part of the SIU investigating teams, ensuring that victims of rape and other serious sexual assaults receive care to meet their immediate physical, mental and welfare needs, taking the victim to the Crawley-based Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), securing forensic exhibits, and providing information to the victim including referral to other support agencies, explaining the criminal justice process and providing pre-trial support.

A further 22 posts as SOLOs combined with investigation work, within the SIUs, are also being created to further assist in this work.

Extra funding for the full-time SOLO posts was secured by Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (SPCC).

The fully implemented and resourced SIUs manage and investigate: all rape and serious sexual assaults for children and adults; historic rape and serious sexual assaults; high risk domestic abuse; adult Protection offences within care/health settings; sudden unexpected deaths of children and child sexual exploitation offences.

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