November 28 2023

Rape investigations criticised

Rape investigations criticised

Improvements needed be made to police rape investigations, according to a new report out this week. The report by HM Inspectorates of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service (Forging the links: Rape investigation and prosecution) found that less than one in 10 forces (7%) had satisfactory ‘rape problem profiles’ drawing together information on rapes in their area from all available sources.

No room for complacency
The report also noted that the number of rapes recorded by the police has risen by 3,261 (26%) over the last three years. Criminal justice agencies attributed 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’.

‘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.’ HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling.

‘Recent personal investigative experience has shown me offenders who should have been placed on the Sex Offenders Register in this country for their foreign convictions only but which only came to light when relevant checks were made on unconnected offences committed in the UK.’ You can also read DS 5-0, a detective sergeant with 17 years’ experience of rape investigations on the report HERE

The report made the following recommendations:

  • investigative techniques and prosecutions must improve ‘to ensure that perpetrators of rape… are identified quickly and where appropriate prosecuted’;
  • there needed to be ‘a greater focus on gathering intelligence material so that offenders are identified speedily by the police’;
  • more could be done at force level to analyse information and draw connections between linked offences;
  • sources of information that might help identify offenders or create a strong prosecution case were ‘not being fully exploited’; and
  • the national resource, the Serious Crime Analysis Section, is not well used or organised


‘“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.’

‘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…’

On SCAS: ‘[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.’