‘Work to do’ to keep rape victims in the process of justice, says police chief

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THE States police need to ‘work harder’ to keep rape victims engaged with the criminal justice process, the Island’s police chief has admitted.

Robin Smith said that the conviction rate needed to be improved ‘for what is a very hard crime to convict’, when he appeared before the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel yesterday.

In March, the JEP reported that there had been no rape convictions during 2021 and 2022.

Detective Superintendent Alison Fossey, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, previously admitted that the majority of allegations did not meet the evidential threshold to be passed to the Law Officers’ Department. She said there was a ‘need to explore ways to improve the end-to-end criminal justice process’.

Now Mr Smith has said that ‘getting a sensible conviction rate for rape and serious sexual offences is a challenge’.

Police chief Robin Smith Picture: ROB CURRIE. (35695545)

‘We need to work harder on keeping the victims of those crimes in what is sometimes a very lengthy and intrusive process,’ he added.

Mr Smith said he planned to meet Robin Merrett – the national director for the UK’s Operation Soteria, a taskforce which is ‘transforming the criminal investigation of rape in the UK’ – today.

He said: ‘It is not just the enforcement side, but how we keep victims of horrendous crimes engaged in the process, because we have a very high percentage of those who do not continue with the complaint.’

The States police has also met with Influence at Work UK, a leading behavioural science consultancy, to ‘look at what we can do to encourage people to stay with the judicial process.’

During the Scrutiny hearing, Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles also provided an update on the Violence Against Women and Girls Taskforce – which was formed in October 2022. One of its aims is to examine the existing legal framework, service and support provision in relation to gender-based violence.

The report, with recommendations for government, was initially intended to be presented in April. However, Deputy Miles said the uptake of the public survey was slow at first, so that period of public engagement was extended and the report would be presented in July.

In the end, the general public survey received 326 responses, the victims testimony response had 28 submissions and the heat map had 279 responses.

A survey circulated around schools had 1,789 survey responses.

There were 12 focus groups with secondary schools and youth associations, as well as focus groups with survivors. Deputy Miles said: ‘It was well worth expending that engagement time and having a rethink about how we could best engage with the majority of people. We have done a very comprehensive job.’

Asked by panel chair Deputy Catherine Curtis about whether she would review the criminal justice process for rape investigations, Deputy Miles said: ‘I haven’t had the opportunity to read the taskforce report and consider their recommendations in great depth. Based on my long experience of the justice system, I am not saying that that wouldn’t be an appropriate step to take if that was the recommendation from the taskforce.’

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