Durham Police’s sexual offence convictions rise by 67% after new training

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Between August 2022 and July 2023, Durham Constabulary secured 87 more charges of rape and sexual assault than in the previous 12 months – a rise of 67% which has been attributed to a new programme of specialist officer training.

The programme, known as Operation Soteria, began as a research trial funded by the Home Office in January 2022, with Durham Constabulary being one of five forces trialling the new techniques. Led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Operation Soteria has brought police into collaboration with academics to develop new approaches to better support victims of sexual offences and more effectively bring perpetrators to justice.

Over 300 investigative officers belonging to Durham Constabulary received training from Dr Patrick Tidmarsh, a leading authority in the investigation of sexual offences who has helped to develop new investigative techniques which focus on analysing the behaviour of suspects.

Since beginning participation in Operation Soteria in 2022, Durham Constabulary’s convictions of rape and sexual assault not only rose by 67% between August 2022 and July 2023, but charges for domestic related serious sexual abuse more than doubled in the same period, from 24 to 55.

Following widespread improvement in conviction rates across the five pathfinder forces, a new National Operating Model for the investigation of sexual offences was introduced to all 43 police forces in England and Wales in July 2023.

“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.”

DET CH SUPT. DAVE ASHTON

On 16th May 2024, Home Secretary, Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, visited a training centre for Durham police at Meadowfield Industrial Estate where he was introduced to the training programme and praised the progress made so far, commenting that: “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 under way.”

Speaking on behalf of Durham Constabulary, Detective Chief Superintendent, Dave Ashton, also remarked on the impact of Operation Soteria and reiterated Durham police’s commitment to effectively managing sexual offence cases, saying: “Rape and 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.

““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”

DET CH SUPT. DAVE ASHTON

 “We recognise that charging and conviction rates are too low, and victims and survivors are too often being let down by the criminal justice system.”

He continued: “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.”

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