Evidence has found police officers too often didn’t believe potential rape victims and thought most sex attack claims were ‘regretful sex’.
An independent report from Operation Soteria, found some officers ‘displayed a culture of disbelieving victims’.
It claimed other serving officers did not think addressing rape and other sexual offences should be a policing priority- some officers believed most rape reports are instances of ‘regretful sex’.
The programme found evidence of police putting disproportionate effort into investigating the credibility of rape complainants and ‘explicit victim blaming’.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the report shows there are ‘big obstacles to overcome’ in the force.
Suella Braverman said: ‘But there are also early signs of improvement and I’m determined to build on these to deliver a sustainable shift in the way rape is investigated.’
The report, published by the Home Office, found ‘disproportionate investigation effort was being put into testing the credibility of a victim’s account’ in each force’.
The report said: ‘At worst, officers demonstrated explicit victim blaming and lack of belief in the victim, which impacted on the subsequent investigation.
‘For example, victim credibility was often focused on and used to either close or not investigate cases within some forces.’
It added: ‘Challenging internal cultures which undermine fair and equitable rape investigations is necessary as a matter of urgency.’
It found that police investigators lack sufficient specialist knowledge about sexual offending, which impacts on victim engagement and the quality and outcome of investigations.
This comes after the Government claimed ‘significant progress’ was being made in how the criminal justice system responds to cases of rape.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for adult sexual offences, Chief Constable Sarah Crew, said many findings are ‘challenging, and some are concerning’, adding that the programme had been met with ‘a genuine willingness and openness to change’.
Crew said: ‘Officers must target rapists by focusing on suspects, not the credibility of victims, and using their legal and policing powers to disrupt offenders and further harm.’
According to the report, processes and procedures “often trumped” empathetic engagement with victims, and there was “great variability” in officers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behavior regarding rape and sexual offenses.
Inexperience and ‘worrying’ burnout levels were also identified.
‘This report serves to highlight what women’s organizations have long known: that cultural issues of misogyny, sexism, and racism in policing impact whether or not victims have access to justice, as well as how they are treated during the process, being disbelieved, blamed, and stereotyped,’ said Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW).
The Metropolitan Police, which is one of the initial forces involved in the programme, said it is ‘committed to transforming its response to rape’.
‘We are working hard to boost detection rates, cut the backlog of cases, and reduce the amount of time victim-survivors spend waiting for justice,’ said Commander Kevin Southworth.
A separate progress report published by the Government said it is ‘on track’ to meet its target to more than double the number of adult rape cases reaching court by the end of this parliament.
According to the progress report, the time it takes for a case to reach court has ‘worsened,’ and the number of outstanding cases has increased.