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#009/2012 – Rapists could be convicted more quickly and successfully if the police and the Crown Prosecution Service made better use of available intelligence

The criminal justice system has made progress in relation to the needs of rape victims although there is more to do: but improvements must also be made to the way the police gather and analyse intelligence material to identify perpetrators of rape and more can be done to ensure that prosecutions are robust found a joint inspection published today by HM Inspectorates of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The number of rapes recorded by the police has risen by 3,261 (26%) over the last three years. Criminal justice agencies attribute this partly to victims having more confidence that police and prosecutors will deal with offences sensitively and professionally. HMIC and HMCPSI found that there is some evidence to support this: as previous reports have recognised while there is absolutely no room for complacency, the reactions of practitioners have become more attuned to the needs of victims, and to the problems associated with the investigation and prosecution of this serious offence. Investigative techniques and prosecutions must also improve to ensure that perpetrators of rape and the full extent of their offending are identified quickly and where appropriate prosecuted.

To keep pace with the increased number of cases, there needs to be a greater focus on gathering intelligence material so that offenders are identified speedily by the police and effectively prosecuted.

Good analysis of intelligence material is vital because:

  • it enables the police to identify offenders quickly, and to prevent further offending;
  • it ensures a better service for victims, as it strengthens the chances of prosecution; and
  • it helps eliminate innocent suspects.

The information collected in the course of a rape investigation – from the first report right through to evidence used in the prosecution – is therefore vital.

However, the inspection found:

More could be done at force level to analyse information and (in particular) draw connections between linked offences

‘Rape problem profiles’ are used by forces to draw together information on rapes in their area from all available sources. However, we found these profiles were only up to date and meeting the required standards in three forces (7%). There was also confusion in some forces about the definitions of ‘repeat’ and ‘serial’ offenders, which makes it difficult for them to see local patterns of crime or for a national picture of known suspects to be developed.

Sources of information that might help identify offenders or create a strong prosecution case are not being fully exploited

We found that forces did not fully understand the potential use of partial DNA samples in eliminating suspects or directing investigations. They did not regularly check records about foreign nationals even though this information is available to all forces through Interpol, helping to identify a pattern of offending by a foreign national or making links across offences here and abroad. When putting together a case for prosecution, information from third parties such as Social Services, or existing intelligence available to prosecutors (for instance, on details of modus operandi) is not always systematically recorded or searched.

The national resource, the Serious Crime Analysis Section, is not well used or organised

The SCAS (currently an operational unit of the National Policing Improvement Agency) was created to provide intelligence material on serious sexual offences at a national level, by identifying and linking serial crime within and across force areas. However, we found that the unit directs too much resource towards assessing force compliance with the process for supplying information, rather than identifying rapists. This bureaucratic process consumes police and SCAS resources which would be better directed at catching offenders.

HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling, said:

“As we say in this report, the safe conviction of those guilty of rape is powerful protection for victims and society at large. We found that more can be done to make better use of the systems and processes in place around gathering and analysing intelligence, which will improve the service and experience of the criminal justice process for victims, and prevent crimes. Whilst the service for victims is getting better, there is absolutely no room for complacency and good intelligence, the right investigative approach and targeting resources effectively are key to preventing rape and catching perpetrators.

“Our review makes a number of practical recommendations which, if implemented, could make a difference to the police service’s ability to understand and solve rape, and the criminal justice process.”

HMCPSI Chief Inspector, Michael Fuller QPM, said:

“Progress has been made, particularly in the quality of CPS charging decisions; however this is a serious crime and the Police and CPS need to make sure they do a better job of securing convictions. Closer working between prosecutors and investigators should be the standard in all rape investigations.”

Notes to editors

  1. The report, Forging the links: Rape investigation and prosecution can be viewed at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publication/forging-the-links-rape-investigation-and-prosecution/
  2. HMIC and HMCPSI recognise and welcome at the outset the comprehensive and recent work on the treatment of victims by the agencies of the criminal justice system, and we hope that our report will contribute to improving services as well as bringing perpetrators to justice.
  3. The report was carried out by HMCPSI and HMIC under the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (CJJI) programme. The CJJI group brings together a number of Inspectorates to undertake a programme of joint inspections across the criminal justice system.
  4. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies. For more information please see https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/about-us/
  5. Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) is the independent Inspectorate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Its purpose is to enhance the quality of justice through independent inspection and assessment. HMCPSI’s Chief Inspector reports directly to the Attorney General and the Justice Committee of the House of Commons
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