Independent report

Operation Soteria Year One Report

This report outlines findings from the first year of the policing aspects of Operation Soteria.


Operation Soteria Bluestone Year One Report

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Operation Soteria is a unique police and CPS programme to develop new operating models for the investigation and prosecution of rape in England and Wales by June 2023. The policing model is being developed by a team of experts funded by the Home Office (£6.65m from 2021 to 23).

Between January 2021 and August 2022, a team of academics conducted sequential deep dives on the police response to rape in 5 police forces: Avon and Somerset Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, Durham Constabulary, West Midlands Police and South Wales Police. A wide range of data and information was gathered and examined during the deep dives - including reviews of case files, observations of investigations and training, focus groups with support services and victims.

Following the deep dives, the forces have developed tailored improvement plans to address the findings.

An independent report, authored by the co-academic lead from the programme, Professor Betsy Stanko, has been published setting out the findings from these deep dives across the six key areas of research.

The report’s findings reinforce the findings from the Government’s End-to-End Rape Review and highlight that policing needs a capable and confident workforce which understands the nature of rape and sexual offences and utilises this knowledge to thoroughly investigate suspects and better support victims.

The findings are being used to inform the development of the new National Operating Model which will support policing to improve their response to rape and other sexual offences.

The report’s key findings highlight that:

  • investigators and other police staff lack sufficient specialist knowledge about rape and other sexual offending, and there is a need for specialism and research-informed specialist investigative practice for rape and sexual offences;
  • disproportionate effort has been put into testing the credibility of a victim’s account, and there is a need to re-balance investigations to include a thorough investigation of the suspect’s behaviour;
  • the learning and development available to investigators has lacked specialist knowledge about offending, which has been exacerbated by high workloads, the complexity of investigations, and resourcing – this is affecting investigations and victim engagement;
  • there is a direct link between officer burnout, a lack of learning and development and the confidence of officers in whether they are using the right investigative strategies; and
  • better strategic analysis of a force’s recorded rape offences and improved analytical capability is needed to ensure offending contexts are reflected in investigative strategies and when monitoring performance.

Operation Soteria is one of many pieces of work underway which supports our ambition to more than double the number of cases reaching court and we are encouraged that the number of referrals of adult rape cases from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service have, in comparison to the quarterly average in 2019, more than doubled and exceed the 2016 average.

Charges are also increasing nationally from 3.6% between April and June 2021 to 4.5% between April and June 2022.

To further drive improvements in the policing response to rape we are:

  • supporting the College of Policing and Operation Soteria academics to create new learning and training products which better meet the needs of investigators
  • bringing in new powers into force to stop unnecessary and intrusive requests for victims’ phones, which is a vital change in law that puts an end to the practice of ‘digital strip search’
  • supporting police forces to ensure that no victim of rape is left without a phone for more than 24 hours, with the vast majority of forces in a position to do so by the end of March 2023; and
  • completed a public consultation exploring the issues regarding police requests for third party material with a response and next steps due for publication shortly.

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Published 15 December 2022
Last updated 24 January 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated the guidance document to include ISBN and command paper number.

  2. Addition of Command Paper number and ISBN.

  3. Added accessible version of report.

  4. First published.