New national rape investigation unit to probe unsolved cases

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A NATIONAL rape investigation unit is to be set up by police in Scotland to investigate unsolved cases and to attempt to increase the conviction rate.

Stephen House, chief constable of the new Scotland-wide police force which starts operating in April, says the new unit will use specially trained police officers working alongside victim support groups.

It will be based on a successful domestic abuse unit developed in Strathclyde which was set up to ensure complaints were investigated thoroughly.

House said: “What we found from domestic abuse was that the key to a successful prosecution is supporting the victim, so that they feel they are going to be protected.

“If we work in alliance with them, we start to build more trust and gain confidence.

“It won’t deal with every case, but it will deal with those where we have an unsolved rape, or we think we know who the perpetrator is but we can’t prove it, or where we believe we have a serial rapist.”

House said he was determined to improve Scotland’s current conviction rate. “It is not about making our job easier, it is about getting the right justice outcome for victims.”

According to Rape Crisis Scotland only ten per cent of rapes reported to police ever reach court. The rate of conviction for those accused of rape was 33 per cent in 2009 – but rose to 66 per cent after the Sexual Offences Act was introduced.

The Sexual Offences Act broadened the definition of rape and provided a statutory definition of consent. Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said before the act was introduced in 2009 Scotland had “one of the narrowest definitions of rape in the world”.