Approximately two-fifths of police forces in England and Wales do not have specialist rape and serious sexual offence (Rasso) units. A series of freedom of information requests submitted by the Guardian (here) revealed that 17 out of 43 police forces did not have a Rasso unit (five additional forces failed to respond to the requests for information).
Several civil liberties campaigners have already criticised the apparent lack of protection afforded by the police to survivors of rape and sexual abuse. The situation was ‘completely unacceptable,, tweeted Leader of the Women’s Equality Party Mandu Reid.
This is completely unacceptable.
Rape and sexual assault are amongst the most prevalent violent crimes in our society.
— Mandu Reid (@ManduReid) October 11, 2021
Dr Daniela Nadj, research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, also noted that these revelations were ‘very troubling’.
The information released by The Guardian coincides with mounting public anxiety surrounding the effectiveness of the police in investigating and charging rape, sexual and domestic abuse cases. One traumatised survivor of domestic abuse from south-west Wales this week recounted her ‘harrowing’experience of the justice system which, she said, was ‘like the abuse had continued’. She told BBC News that the charging process had been ‘emotionally draining’ and criticised the ‘traumatic’ experience of continuously having to recount her abuse. In her endorsementof Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ reporton police responses to violence against women and girls, Dame Vera Baird QC, the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, stated:
‘Effective and responsive victim-centred policing is essential, and the police need to improve. Police responses vary considerably across the country: far too many cases are closed without charge and there remain major gaps in police crime recording… [but] it’s also undeniable that we cannot simply police our way out of this crisis. This is a broader societal problem and that requires a whole-system approach spanning the police, justice agencies, health and social care, and education.’
Official crime outcome statistics from the Home Office for the 2020/2021 year reported that around half of sexual offences in England and Wales were subjected to ‘evidential difficulties’. The Home Office further reported that ‘two in five rape offences (42%) were closed because the victim did not support further police action against a suspect.