A newly established team of Sussex Police officers and staff starts training this month (May 2018) for their roles as a dedicated resource to help support victims of serious sexual assaults.
The 20 officers and staff will be working from locations right across the county, based alongside colleagues in the specialist Safeguarding Investigations Units.
The new Sexual Offence Investigation Trained (SOIT) officers will act as a single point of contact for victims and will be on hand to support victims throughout a criminal investigation from initial reporting right through to court proceedings and beyond.
The introduction of this dedicated role will help investigators to conduct high quality investigations in the knowledge that the victim will be receiving the level of care, support and information that they need.
In the coming months the team will be receiving specialist training in responding to incidents of serious sexual offending with the aim that they will be fully operational by September 2018.
Officers and staff across the force are already currently able to provide this type of support service and continue to do so while the new SOIT officers gradually take over the responsibility.
The introduction of the team is an extra area of investment for Sussex Police and has been financed by a rise in the police precept proportion of council tax, secured by Katy Bourne, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
In a first for Sussex Police, the team consists of a mixture of police officers and staff performing the same role. The team comprises police constables with a background in working with victims, some existing police staff working in Investigations, crime scene investigation and domestic abuse casework, and several newcomers from outside the force including some from partner agencies with experience in supporting victims.
Detective Superintendent Carwyn Hughes from the Public Protection Command said; “This is an example of the force putting extra resources in place to improve the service we provide to those who are victims of some of the most serious crimes.
“We recognise how hard it is for victims of sexual offences to make a report and there have already been arrangements in place to support them when they do so, but with introduction of these dedicated roles we are now better equipped to respond when people have the courage to come forward, which is already happening increasingly often.”
Commenting on this extra support for victims, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, said: “My commitment to support victims of crime and put them at the heart of the criminal justice system remains a key priority in our Police & Crime Plan.
“That is why I was pleased that the public supported an uplift in last year’s precept – with a large proportion going to increase resources in Sussex Police’s Public Protection unit. These specially trained officers will perform a vital role in terms of case processing, supporting investigation and providing services directly to victims of serious sexual assault.
“All victims tell me that what matters the most to them is being kept informed. So it is vital that victims of serious sexual assault receive ongoing communication and that there is a joined up approach from all of those involved – it is only by doing this that we can contribute to a more just outcome.”
For further information about support available for victims of sexual offences see the Sussex Police website here.