New Durham Constabulary approach on investigating rape and sexual assaults sees 67% rise in charges

Home Secretary James Cleverly visits Durham Constabulary to find out about the specialist sexual offences training.
Home Secretary James Cleverly visits Durham Constabulary to find out about the specialist sexual offences training. -Credit:Durham Constabulary

Durham Constabulary detectives have undergone specialist training in a transformative new approach to investigating sexual offences. Over 300 investigators have received the expert training by Dr Patrick Tidmarsh, an expert in his field, leading to a significant increase in charging rates.

As part of Operation Soteria, officers have increased the number of early consultations with colleagues from the Crown Prosecution Service, resulting in better case management and a higher proportion of charges. Between August 2022 and July last year, 87 more charges for rape and serious sexual assaults were secured by Durham Constabulary officers compared with the 12 months before, an increase of 67%.

Operation Soteria is a transformative new approach to rape investigations and prosecutions, which improves support for victims and puts offenders and their behaviour under deeper scrutiny. It brings police forces and prosecutors together with academics to use evidence and new insight, enabling forces to transform their response to rape and sexual offences.

On Thursday, Home Secretary James Cleverly visited Durham to discover more about the force’s work on Operation Soteria and how it is helping victims and survivors. On the new training, he said: "Exceeding the target we set last year for specially trained officers is another significant milestone in our efforts to transform the way the criminal justice system deals with rape and sexual offences.

"I have witnessed first-hand in Durham the in-depth, specialised training being delivered. We are already seeing significant increases in arrests, police referrals, charges and prosecutions under this new approach. We still have further to go but progress is underway."

Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Ashton, from Durham Constabulary, said: "Rape and serious sexual assaults are some of the most complex and challenging crimes we deal with, and we understand that behind each one of these statistics, there is a victim who has suffered. We are determined to provide the very best possible service for victims and survivors of these dreadful offences.

"We recognise that charging and conviction rates are too low, and victims and survivors are too often being let down by the criminal justice process. Operation Soteria has allowed us to take an open and honest look at the way we work within our own organisation, and how we work with our partner agencies, to improve our investigation of sexual offences.

"This has enabled us to build on our already positive performance, secure more charges against offenders, and get the justice that victims want and deserve."