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Devon & Cornwall Police announce National Operating Model for rape investigation

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Devon & Cornwall Police announce National Operating Model for rape investigation

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Today will see a new way of investigating and supporting victims of rape and serious sexual assault officially launched nationwide.

All 43 police forces in England and Wales from Monday, 10 July, now have access to tools and guidance as part of the Operation Soteria Bluestone National Operating Model, a new way to investigate rape and sexual offences and to support victims. 

Operation Soteria was launched as part of the government’s end-to-end Rape Review published in June 2021 which established beyond doubt that outcomes for rape and sexual offence cases were unacceptably poor across the country.

Devon and Cornwall Police has already been early adopters of the new Soteria approach aimed at establishing a new suspect focused approach to investigations, with better support for victims and officers.

Soteria builds on the pioneering work of Project Bluestone in Avon and Somerset which begun in 2020. In 2021 the Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police, Durham Constabulary and the West Midlands Police joined the programme, and in October 2022 a further 14 police forces including Devon & Cornwall Police joined the programme.

Assistant Chief Constable David Thorne of Devon and rtCornwall Police said: “We are very proud of being part of this transformative programme, a collaboration between police officers and academic researchers. We have contributed to the learning that has been incorporated into the new National Operating Model through detailed and unfalteringly honest self-assessment of our processes and performance.

“The tools contained in the National Operating Model will help us to conduct suspect, rather than victim-focused, investigations and to better support victims of these crimes all the way from the first call to the police through to referral to our key partners the CPS and onward through the criminal justice system.

“We will be looking at the way we work and what is not working and how the Model can help us address this. Although this may not be a comfortable or short journey, it is a vital one. We are pleased to be taking the next steps on this journey to make that change happen and to support all victims of rape and sexual offences.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “We know that some victims of sexual violence are being failed by police forces and much needs to be done to ensure justice is available to those who seek it.

“I want every person who experiences rape or other sexual offences to feel confident that they can report the crime, safe in the knowledge that they will be believed at the point of reporting, treated with dignity and respect and relevant evidence collected to secure justice.

“I am proud that Devon and Cornwall Police was one of the first to take part in this new approach and has been instrumental in shaping a better experience and result for those in the grip of a traumatic experience.

"I welcome the rolling out of this national operating model and I look forward to seeing the lives of sexual violence survivors across the country improve as a result. But we must continue to work out better ways to stop this violence happening in the first place.”

Devon and Cornwall Police encourages all victims of sexual assault to come forward and report it. They will be listened to, respected and supported through the criminal justice system, every step of the way.

Victims can also seek help through sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) which provide a safe space and dedicated care for people who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused. They offer specialist practical, medical and emotional support in the first instance.

The Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service offered through the charity First Light provides valuable support and advice to victims throughout their journey through the criminal justice system.

If you have been affected by sexual harm, you can access specialist support and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by visiting or calling Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111.

If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 999.

The research by Operation Soteria Bluestone continues and all victim survivors of rape or sexual assault, aged 18 or over and who have reported the assault to police, are invited to give honest feedback about their experience of the police process in a completely anonymous survey.

The survey can be accessed online at the link below and can be completed regardless of how long ago the assault took place and whatever stage the investigation by police is at, whether ongoing or concluded.

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