Expansion scheme to improve RASSO response

2nd August 2022

Gwent Police will become one of 14 services to participate in a project designed to transform the policing response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).

The expansion plan, known as Operation Soteria Bluestone, is a Home Office funded research and change programme which is led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and involves police services working with leading academics in this field.

Its aim, alongside improving the police response to these offences, is to create a national operating model which will be rolled out to all 43 police services in Wales and England.

Gwent’s role in the expansion programme will begin with a supported self-assessment, starting in October, to review the current practices against the operation’s research findings to date.

Insights gained from this review will form an improvement plan, allowing officers to take part in enhanced learning and development opportunities, specialist guidance and peer support from the operation’s national learning network.

Chief Constable Pam Kelly said: “Rape is one of the most complex and challenging crimes we deal with within the criminal justice system.

“Our officers are dedicated to achieving the best outcomes for victims and continuously look to improve, but we recognise improvements are needed to address low conviction rates.

“Operation Soteria is an opportunity to achieve real, sustainable change by taking an open and honest look at the way we work within our own organisation, alongside the wider criminal justice system and victim support services.

“We’re committed to working with academics to improve the experiences of victims and tighten our grip on offenders.

“As an early adopter we’re looking forward to supplementing the work we already do in this area to deliver the best possible response and support across the criminal justice system.”

Key areas of focus for the programme have been informed by academic studies, deep dive research and pilots in pathfinder forces.

Themes include suspect focused investigations, identification of repeat and serial offenders, victim engagement, learning, development and wellbeing for officers, better use of data and digital forensics.

Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said: “I’m committed to ensuring that victims of crime receive the very best service from their police force and I’m pleased that Gwent Police is one of the latest 14 forces to join Operation Soteria Bluestone.

“We recognise this isn’t an overnight solution, but it is an opportunity to bring about real and sustainable change to the way these traumatic offences are policed.”

Operation Soteria Bluestone was first piloted in Avon and Somerset Police at the beginning of 2021, as a response to the government’s end-to-end rape review.

The expansion programme will build on the learning identified from the five initial operational forces of the Metropolitan Police Service, Durham Constabulary, West Midlands Police and South Wales Police.

The services, alongside Gwent Police, who will be involved in the expansion are: Devon & Cornwall, Dyfed-Powys, North Wales, Northumbria, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Kent, Dorset and Sussex.