CrimeGMP

GMP joins Operation Soteria Bluestone to improve approach to investigating rape and sexual offences

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is one of 14 forces to join the expansion programme for Operation Soteria Bluestone, a National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) led and Home Office funded research and change programme. The scheme aims to transform the policing response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) and will result in a national operating model which will be rolled out to all 43 Home Office forces.

Working with leading academics, GMP has begun a supported self-assessment in October 2022 to review their current practices in light of Operation Soteria Bluestone research findings to date. They will use this insight to develop an improvement plan. Officers will gain access to enhanced learning and development, specialist guidance and peer support via Operation Soteria Bluestone’s National Learning Network.

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/serial offenders, victim engagement, learning, development and wellbeing for officers, better use of data and digital forensics.

Detective Superintendent Jude Holmes, force lead for rape and serious sexual assault, said: “Rape is an incredibly complex and challenging crime. Our officers are committed to getting victims the best possible outcome, but we recognise that more needs to be done to address low conviction rates.

“Operation Soteria Bluestone is an opportunity to bring about real and lasting change by scrutinising the work we do within our own organisation, alongside the wider criminal justice system and victim support services.

“We are working alongside academics to find ways of improving the experiences of victims and pursuing offenders. As early adopters, we are contributing to the development of a new national operating model for stronger and more efficient rape investigations.”

Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester’s Deputy Mayor for policing, crime, criminal justice, and fire, said: “Rape and serious sexual assaults are sickening crimes which have a deep impact on the victims, and we must do everything possible to continuously improve how we tackle them and prevent them from happening.

“That is why we launched our Gender-Based Violence Strategy – a plan to tackle and prevent these crimes and behaviours as part of a whole-system approach across Greater Manchester. The strategy made a commitment to ask the Chief Constable to anticipate the need to implement this ‘gold standard’ approach to investigating rape, and it is really encouraging to see that Greater Manchester Police has sought to become part of the programme before wider national roll-out in late 2023.

“I’m pleased Greater Manchester Police is one of the latest fourteen forces to join the programme, which is committed to improving the experience of victims and bringing about demonstrable change. Whilst achieving these aims will not be easy, Operation Soteria Bluestone is an opportunity to improve the way that these traumatic offences are policed and to keep people safe.”

Operation Soteria Bluestone was first piloted in Avon and Somerset Police at the beginning of 2021, as a response to the government End-to-End Rape Review. The expansion programme will build on the learning identified from the five initial Operation Soteria Bluestone forces; Metropolitan Police Service, Durham Constabulary, West Midlands Police and South Wales Police. This work will ultimately result in the new National Operating Model for use by all 43 Home Office police forces across England and Wales.

Police forces involved in the expansion of Operation Soteria Bluestone are: Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, Dyfed-Powys, North Wales, Northumbria, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Kent, Dorset and Sussex.

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