OU research which will transform how rape investigations are conducted has just been awarded £570,000 by The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, who are hosting this National Police Chiefs Council led and Home Office funded programme.
The funding is for Operation Soteria Bluestone, a pioneering research programme that aims to transform the police response to rape and sexual offences. It follows on from the success of the Bluestone 1 Pathfinder project with Avon and Somerset Police and takes learning from this to extend the reach to other forces.
Bluestone 2 forms the policing operational arm of a wider programme reviewing rape across the criminal justice system in England and Wales called Operation Soteria. The research will mirror the methodology of Bluestone 1 with four new forces on board - The Metropolitan Police Service, Durham Police, West Midlands Police and South Wales Police.
The OU lead for the project is Dr Emma Williams, Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships and a member of the OU’s Centre of Police Research and Learning (CPRL). Emma and her team are working with leading academics from across the UK alongside police officers and are seeking to improve the investigation and response to rape and serious sexual assault.
The research is split into six workstreams all looking at different aspects of the investigative process: suspect focused investigations, challenging and disrupting repeat offenders, victim engagement, learning and development and wellbeing, review of data, and performance and digital forensics.
Dr Williams leads on the learning and development and wellbeing stream whereby she will look at the learning delivered to those involved in rape investigations across the four police forces and the associated learnings and developmental requirements.
“I am particularly excited by and interested in the fact that as a result of extensive experience of researching this area and a desire to work with police, the programme offers a real opportunity for academics and practitioners to work together for change,” she said. Bluestone offers the first holistic examination into the complex areas impacting on the investigation of rape. This includes a review of the support offered to victims and the support offered to those trying to investigate the crime for them – the police.”
The programme, which began in early September and will run to the end of 2022 will build on the work of the Avon and Somerset pathfinder, with the four additional police forces and will participate in the deep discovery phase with the six research teams, who will offer bespoke analysis, insight and implementation support to the forces as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the changes made.
OU team members working with Dr Williams are Dr Linda Maguire, Dr Arun Sondhi, Dr Nicky Miller, Dr Rachel Ward, Jenny Norman and Richard Harding.
The other universities involved in this project are City University, Birkbeck, Bournemouth, Suffolk, London Metropolitan and Durham.