Specialist cops are helping women speak out about the horror of rape

HARROWING.

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Specialist police are on hand to help women in rape cases
Specialist police are on hand to help women in rape cases

That is the word used by one of Glasgow's senior detectives to describe the effects of reporting a rape.

It is why Police Scotland has made major changes to the way serious sex crime is investigated, with a greater focus on the wellbeing of victims.

Detective Superintendent Peter McPike heads up Glasgow's divisional investigation team, which consists of 25 staff, including Solos - sexual offence liaison officers.

He called the unit a "dedicated response to victims".

Prior to its launch, sexual crime was dealt with by general CID officers.

And it seems the approach may be working.

Police in Glasgow have solved two-thirds - more than 67% - of rapes and attempted rapes in the first year of the national force.

A total of 200 people were arrested between April 1 last year and March 31 this year for 297 reports of rape and attempted rape in the Greater Glasgow area - the city, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire.

However, the number of recorded reports of the crime has risen by 8% from the previous year - a trend which has been seen across the country.

In 2012/13 there were 275 rapes and attempted rapes, of which 157 - 57% - were detected.

Police hope that the rise is down to increased confidence, but also say it could be attributed to historical reporting and more in-depth investigations of domestic abuse cases.

Mr McPike said: "It was recognised by Police Scotland that that (investigation of rape) was an area where we could improve, and it was certainly laid down by the chief at the start of Police Scotland that that's what he wanted to do.

"In the first year of having this dedicated response in Glasgow we have detected more than 200 rapes - that's up from last year.

"That's a huge increase in the number of people who are being caught.

"That's the advantages of having specially trained officers to do that."

Mr McPike said the team was trained in recognising how "harrowing" reporting rape can be for victims, while still doing their job - gathering evidence and following lines of inquiry.

"From the very outset they are absolutely aware of the kind of evidence to look for," he said.

"It can take a lot of time but the Solos are trained to get that amount of detail for a statement. They are trained to do it in a tactful manner."

The team believe the increased reports are "positive" because it could mean the true extent of the crime is beginning to be uncovered.

Mr McPike said: "We absolutely believe that the response to deliver to vulnerable victims has given increased confidence.

"When people come forward they can be assured that they'll be given a professional consistent response.

"Hopefully it will give us a better idea of the number of crimes actually being reported because it's probably reasonably documented that this is a crime that is traditionally under reported."

Detective Chief Inspector Yvonne Scott, deputy of the team, said they worked closely with the divisional domestic abuse unit.

Ms Scott said both units dealt "quite regularly" with historical reports.

She said: "For whatever reason people feel more confident to come forward after many years. That's really positive."

A range of preventative measures, aimed at addressing the behaviour of potential sex attackers, are being rolled out in the city.

Night-time workers, including officers on the beat, bar staff and taxi rank workers, are being trained to spot signs of predatory sexual behaviour and intervene.

It is known as the bystander approach and was launched last year by Chief Inspector Graham Goulden, the Violence Reduction Unit's (VRU) anti-violence campaign coordinator.

The force-wide We Can Stop It rape awareness campaign is also urging perpetrators to look at their behaviour and address it.

And, as the Evening Times revealed last week, Police Scotland is planning to target people showing predatory behaviour with verbal warnings.

Mr McPike said: "I think the message is very clear that responsibility for these crimes being committed lies with those who commit them.

"We've got a huge numbers of officers in the city centre every week. Now we will even go out and brief them just to raise awareness to them on the kind of things to look for, particularly predatory behaviour.

"So it's something we are absolutely trying to focus is on.

"It's a balance about being absolutely victim centred on this, but delivering the message that the responsibilty lies with those who commit it."

rachel.loxton@eveningtimes.co.uk

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