Police set up new rape investigation unit

PUBLISHED: 12:40 18 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

A NEW specialised rape and sexual offences investigation unit was launched by Herts Police on Monday with the aim of giving victims better support and increasing convictions. The Sexual Offences Investigation Team (SOIT), which will be based in St Albans

A NEW specialised rape and sexual offences investigation unit was launched by Herts Police on Monday with the aim of giving victims better support and increasing convictions.

The Sexual Offences Investigation Team (SOIT), which will be based in St Albans initially, brings together a 19-strong team of officers from across the county who are specialists in dealing with rape and serious sexual offences.

As soon as a crime is reported and the immediate inquiries made, the case is now referred to the SOIT, which will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It will take on the investigation into the suspect, forensic issues and the victim's interview and support, as well as the preparation of paperwork for prosecutions.

By refining and focussing the investigation processes and by making the victim's experience more comfortable to prevent them withdrawing, it is hoped that more offenders will be charged and prosecuted.

Detective Inspector Shane O'Neill is leading the implementation of the SOIT and said: "Our officers and staff have developed a great deal of expertise in handling serious sexual offences in Herts and a great benefit of the SOIT is that much of this expertise has now been brought together under one roof."

He added: "The SOIT will continue to offer the best possible long-term support to victims via one office who will act as a single point of contact to keep victims updated on all aspects of the investigation. The new unit's overall streamlined approach will ultimately improve suspect investigation and the quality of victim support."

Detective Superintendent Jon Chapman welcomed the new officers and representatives from partnership organisations including Rape Crisis and Victim Support at the official SOIT launch.

He said: "Rape is rare in Herts, particularly by a stranger, but where it does happen it will always receive the highest standards of investigation with no stone left unturned in our pursuit of the offender."

He added: "We urge people who are victims of a rape and serious sexual assault to come forward and report the incident to police as soon as possible, as this will significantly increase our chances of catching the offender."

The SOIT will deal with cases where the offender is known to the victim while the Major Crime Unit at police headquarters will continue to look after crimes where this is not the case.

Anyone who is a victim of a rape or a serious sexual assault is asked to call 999 or the police non-emergency number on 0845 33 00 222. Alternatively, a number of organisations can offer support, including Rape Crisis on 01707 276512 at Hatfield or 01923 249115 at Watford, and Victim Support on 0845 303090.

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