More police officers and staff are to focus their efforts on investigating and preventing the sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable people in Sussex, the police force has said.
Nine officers transferred to Sussex from other forces in October in a drive to increase the number in Public Protection, which will lead to more than 40 additional officers and staff in this area of work, thanks to additional funding secured by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne.
This comes as HMIC Rape Monitoring Data for 2015 and 2016 is announced today, showing the trend of reporting of rape in Sussex has continued to rise, in line with reporting across the country, as it has for other serious sexual offences. The HMIC Data shows that in the 12 months ending March 2016, 973 rapes were reported in Sussex, compared to 826 in the previous 12 months. There was a 12 per cent increase in recorded rapes of adults and a 10 per cent increase in those of children. Since 2011 and 2012, reports of rape have more than doubled.
Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley said: “Sussex continues to experience increases in reports of rape, sexual offences and the abuse of both children and vulnerable adults, as victims become increasingly confident to come forward and report incidents, many of them non-recent.
“We welcome the publication of this annual data as evidence of the continued focus by all agencies on the issue of rape and other serious sexual offences.
“We already have specialist teams in Sussex Police focused on safeguarding and complex abuse investigations who are working closely with victims and our support agency partners. With additional dedicated officers and staff we will be even more effective in protecting victims and working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to maximise our opportunities to prosecute offenders and keep people safe.”
“The HMIC report refers to the need to comply with national crime reporting standards, for which Sussex Police has achieved 95% compliance.
Katy Bourne said: “One of my priorities has been to encourage victims to report all forms of abuse including domestic abuse and serious sexual offences. Today’s figures show that Sussex residents who are affected are now more confident in the services that are available and that Sussex Police have improved their response. HMIC’s rape data clearly shows that those who commit rape in our county are more likely than ever to be tracked down, investigated and prosecuted.
“This validates the public’s support for my decision to increase funding of safeguarding investigation units across the county and specifically to fund a number of sexual offence liaison officers.
“With this funding, I have also improved the support available to survivors of rape regardless of whether they report it to the police.
“For information about services to support victims of abuse and other serious sexual offences, please see our web portal safespacesussex.org.uk which provides direct access to help and support for all victims and witnesses of crime in Sussex.”
Det Supt Tingley continued: “The HMIC report does not specify the proportion of rape offences relating to domestic abuse; however, we know that this is significant. We have recognised the link between domestic and sexual violence and the needs of children within that context, whether or not they are specifically victims in their own right. That is why we have developed a new approach to the way we investigate sexual offences that ensures that we take an integrated approach to safeguarding those children and adults who are vulnerable and at risk.”
In addition to new dedicated police officers, the Police and Crime Commissioner has worked closely with local authorities to secure additional funding for independent advocates to supplement provision for adults, but also some dedicated resources to support children.
Sussex Police, in partnership with NHS England and local authority partners, works with the Sussex-based Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). This service was the first in the country to be commissioned, including a facility for child victims and providing crisis support workers and forensic nurse practitioners on a 24/7 basis.
The SARC is the central point for onward referral to an independent sexual violence advisor and counselling services provided by local authorities.
Victims or witnesses of sexual assault can contact police at any time via 999 in an emergency, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by calling 101 and arranging to talk in confidence to specially trained detectives.
For further help or support go to the Safe in East Sussex website, safeineastsussex.org.uk, or call 01293 600 469.