The Constabulary has begun working with academics who are specialists in their field to improve how officers respond and investigate sexual offences.

It’s all part of the national Operation Soteria Bluestone initiative – a revised approach to investigating rape and serious sexual offences that is already seeing encouraging outcomes in other areas.

All forces in England and Wales will adopt the best practice that is developed from 2023, with an intention to provide a better policing service to victims. The Constabulary is one of the new pilot forces to join the latest phase of the initiative, making a total of 19 forces participating nationally.

Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson said: “Rape and sexual offences are some of the most invasive, harmful crimes imaginable, but the conviction rates for these terrible offences need a dramatic improvement if we are to give victims, survivors and the wider public confidence that the whole criminal justice system takes such allegations seriously.

“I hope that by joining Operation Soteria Bluestone, something I have been encouraging since I came in to office as part of my priority to tackle male violence against women and girls, we will see a steep change in the capacity and ability of the Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service to deal with rape and serious sexual offences in Gloucestershire.

“It’s only by taking concerted, joined-up action like this across the whole criminal justice system, together with my office securing considerable funding through the Home Office ‘Safer Streets Fund’, that we can start to show real progress and rebuild trust.”

Operation Soteria Bluestone was first launched as a response to the Government’s End-to-End Rape Review, and the Home Office pledge to increase the number of rape cases successfully prosecuted at court.

Rape convictions can be difficult to secure for a number of reasons and the initiative aims to boost conviction rates and focus on dealing with the perpetrator.

Detective Superintendent Rich Pegler said: “Operation Soteria is an opportunity for us to learn and ensure we are doing absolutely everything we can to identify and convict sexual predators. The team are passionate about providing the very best service that they can to victims.

“We currently have a dedicated and specialist Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team, and the work with Operation Soteria Bluestone will help us continue to build on our already strong partnership approach with the Crown Prosecution Service in taking more cases to trial and conviction.”

Head of the Crown Prosecution Service South West’s Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) team Vicky Gleave said: “Operation Soteria is an ambitious programme that is testing new ways of working to transform how the CPS and police handle rape investigations and prosecutions. Its approach is centred on the conduct of the suspect as opposed to the victim, with a strong focus on closer joint working between police and prosecution teams to drive up the number of successful prosecutions across the country.

“CPS South West has been part of Soteria alongside Avon & Somerset since it began, and we have seen first-hand the transformation that is now taking place. I am therefore delighted that Soteria has been expanded to encompass Gloucestershire Constabulary and look forward to collaborating to further improve our partnership response and handling of these types of crimes.”

If you have experienced rape, sexual assault or abuse, and wish to report the crime, contact police by calling 101 or 999 in the case of an emergency.

You can report and find support on our website here: Support for victims of rape and sexual assault | Gloucestershire Constabulary

Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre support women dealing with the effects of rape and sexual abuse. For more information visit their website