DYFED-Powys Police 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, the force has begun a supported self-assessment this month (October 2022) to review current practices in light of Operation Soteria Bluestone research findings to date. They will use this insight to assist in developing an improvement plan and 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 Paul Jones 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, but there is always room for improvement.
“Operation Soteria Bluestone is an opportunity to achieve real, sustainable change by candidly analysing our procedures, alongside the wider criminal justice system and victim support services.
“We are committed to working with academics to improve the experiences of victims and tighten our grip on offenders. As an early adopter, we’re contributing to the development of a new national operating model for stronger and more efficient rape investigations.”
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn added: “We recognise the significant impact of Rape and Sexual Offences upon victims, their families and friends as well as the wider community. Whilst the Force already has a significant focus on the response to rape, it is acknowledged that more can be done to improve the victim’s journey as well as the judicial outcomes of cases.
“Through my Office, I commission New Pathways to provide support services for victims of rape and sexual violence, and provide them with over £300,000 of funding on annual basis. New Pathways provide 24 hour access to crisis and ongoing support for victims of sexual violence. This support offers first aid, safeguarding and specialist clinical and forensic care in a safe space. As we continue to invest in their services, I would urge anyone who’s been a victim, to come forward and reach out for support as early as possible, and not to suffer in silence.”
There are many forms of sexual violence, and every person who experiences sexual violence will be affected differently. We understand it takes tremendous courage to come forward and reach out. But whether victims choose to involve the police or not, support is available to everyone. New Pathways is the largest sexual violence support provider in Wales, with extensive experience of delivering specialist support to adults and children affected by the trauma of rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse. They offer a full range of free specialist crisis, advocacy, wellbeing and counselling services, and are widely regarded as a leading organisation in the field.
We would also encourage victims and survivors of sexual assault to seek help through sexual assault referral centres (SARCs). SARCs provide a safe space and dedicated care for people who have been raped, sexually assaulted or abused, and are here for everyone. They offer specialist practical, medical and emotional support, and anyone can contact a sexual assault referral centre to make an appointment or ask someone else, such as a healthcare professional, charity, friend or family member to do this for them.
If a victim does choose to involve the police and report an assault, there are specially trained advisers available who will support them through the criminal justice system, every step of the way.
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.
The other police forces involved in the expansion of Operation Soteria Bluestone are: Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, North Wales, Northumbria, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Kent, Dorset and Sussex.