Scots Police will treat rape as seriously as murder

RAPE will be treated as seriously as homicide in future under Scotland’s new single force, police have said.

The national rape taskforce, and 14 divisional teams, will have the same levels of expertise for investigations as a murder squad.

Police leaders say they are responding to a request from former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini to put rape investigations on a par with homicide.

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They are also working with Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) to try to encourage more victims to come forward.

Victims will be supported through the investigation by specially trained liaison officers.

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, head of major crime and public protection for Police Scotland, said: “Elish Angiolini said she wanted to see rape treated like homicide – that’s what we’re doing now.

“Trained sexual-offence liaison officers will be a single point of contact for rape victims. They will take the account of what has happened and support them through the requirements for medical examination. That’s a significant development. Every investigation will be led by a detective inspector or above, leading a team of people who will have the same skill-sets as used in homicide investigations.”

RCS estimates just one in four sex attack victims reports the crime to police. and the true percentage is likely to be even lower.

Mr Graham said: “They [rape victims] don’t find it easy to go through the criminal justice system. It’s a crime that tends to disempower and impact on self-esteem. It is one of the most difficult crimes to come forward [about] in the first place.

“They need to have absolute confidence that when they come to the police they will be dealt with with respect.”

Police Scotland is working more closely with RCS, with the charity shown how investigations work and invited to make recommendations. Rapes which take place from next week, and which remain unsolved, will in future be subject to cold-case reviews, in the same way as murders already are.

Mr Graham refused to set a target for the percentage of victims reporting, but said: “I would like to see it increase but we’ve not set a target. I expect it varies in different parts of the country.”

Latest figures show incidents of rape are rising, although this could be down to increased reporting rather than more crimes being committed.

Despite recorded crime falling to a 37-year low, rape and attempted rape have risen sharply in recent years.

In 2011-12, there were 1,274 cases of rape and attempted rape recorded by police, up 13 per cent from 1,131 the previous year. Of those 1,274 cases, 24 were offences against men.

Rape laws were broadened in 2010 in response to criticism of low conviction rates, and now include a wider range of forced sexual acts against women and men.

Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator for RCS, said: “We’re very supportive of the approach the police are taking – it’s highly encouraging to see them put so much emphasis on rape.”