New Peterborough police chief determined to improve rape prosecution rates
Prosecution rates for rape need to improve, according to the new police chief for Peterborough and Fenland.
Supt Kate Anderson said Cambridgeshire Constabulary ranks 14th in the country for successful prosecutions, putting it above the national average.
But she told the Peterborough Telegraph: “We’re still not where I’d want us to be. There are still far too many survivors of serious sexual offences who still do not get justice through the criminal justice system in Britain.
“There are ongoing challenges in terms of how we investigate those, and I welcome the news in the last few weeks that there have been more discussions about how we can take that forward.
“I also think we have an under-reporting issue with male survivors of rape who feel reluctant to come forward, and people from different backgrounds.”
Asked what needs to change, Peterborough’s new area commander replied: “As the police service we need to do more to build trust and confidence with survivors to engage with the justice programme.
“It’s so important we investigate the cases thoroughly, but what that means is sometimes they take a long time to get to court. Sadly what we see is individuals lose confidence in the system because we’re not providing them with confidence through that journey.
“We need to make sure people know throughout that criminal justice process there is support for them in every way, and that actually at the point of getting to court they are entitled to special measures.
“That means things like there are screens at the court so you don’t have to see your accuser if you don’t want to, and there’s anonymity.
“It’s also important to know that even if they don’t feel able to report now, actually they can report things which happened many years ago.”
Educating people is another aim, especially on the struggles to leave an abusive relationship.
“It can be incredibly difficult and people often live with horrific things happening to them for a long period before finding the strength and resilience to tell someone what’s happening to them,” Supt Anderson added.
“The more we can help the public understand how difficult it is for people, the greater the chance the jurors - particularly if they are presented with cases in a domestic setting - will understand it’s incredibly hard for people.”
The new area commander for Peterborough and Fenland has been a detective inspector in the force’s rape investigations team and a detective sergeant in the domestic abuse team.
On top of that, she said she has personal experience of street-based harassment but does not fear going out in the city of her birth.
“Peterborough is a safe place to go out and we’re no worse than anybody else,” she explained. “But there is more we can still do to make it a really safe place to be and for people to travel into to go for a night out because it’s so safe and welcoming.”
One way of doing that is from a funding bid for the Government’s Safer Streets Fund which, if successful, would include training to identify individuals causing harm, as well as dedicated CCTV operators who would look out for predatory behaviour.
“If we build up enough information about people behaving in a certain way that we believe to be predatory, actually we can apply for sexual risk orders,” Supt Anderson explained.
“They don’t have to be convicted of an offence, but actually we believe this person is a danger, and it can prohibit them from going into a nighttime economy hotspot, or going into certain parts of the town, or at certain times, and that’s what we need to do to keep people safer.”
On the need to tackle street-based harassment, which has received greater media coverage since the murder of Sarah Everard, Supt Anderson said: “It is a problem nationally and internationally. It’s certainly something that I’ve experienced and something the majority of women that I’ve spoken to have experienced, and a number of men I have spoken to have experienced.
“When it comes to street-based safety the message has to be about targeting offenders and stopping their behaviour rather than about how women need to take action to keep themselves safe. Because actually the only person responsible is the perpetrator.
“The more we can do to actually say ‘that’s not acceptable’ in this social group, that you don’t shout out of cars at people, the better.
“If you are somebody who sees that behaviour you should feel confident to be able to say ‘that’s not okay’ or be able to report it.”
Asked about an increasing number of reported harassment and stalking cases, the new police chief said she believed that was as a result of greater awareness and recording of offences.