DURHAM CONSTABULARY has unveiled plans to 'transform the police response to rape and sexual offences'. 

Project Soteria will see police professionals work alongside prominent academics to better understand a suspect’s behaviour and improve victim experiences within the criminal justice system.

It comes after Durham Constabulary was found to have one of the highest charging rates for rape investigations in England and Wales, with a charge in 11 per cent of all reported rape offences in the last 12 months to the end of May this year – significantly higher than the national average of 1.6 per cent.

The force recently opened a new, more accessible sexual assault referral centre, allowing the force and its partners to continue to deliver high quality, tailored support for those affected by rape and sexual violence.

Read more: Darlington and County Durham Rape crisis centre calls for greater victim support

The project received the backing of the new Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen.

Detective Superintendent Dave Ashton, Head of Safeguarding at Durham Constabulary, said: “Durham Constabulary is keen to be involved in Project Soteria, particularly if it can help us to improve the way in which we deal with rape offences.

"Rape and sexual offences are some of the most harmful and harrowing crimes that we as police officers investigate and that’s why tackling high-harm offences, including rape, is a top priority for Durham Constabulary.

“Because of this, we already place significant emphasis on carrying out high-quality investigations with good victim care. We continue to work closely with the CPS and other agencies and this project will allow us to further improve our approach to rape and sexual violence.”

The Northern Echo: Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy AllenDurham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen

Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen, said: “I fully support intelligence led and data driven approaches that enable us to improve the way we tackle high harm offences, support victims of rape and sexual assault and continue to improve charging and conviction rates.

"I am delighted that this pioneering programme will be rolled out for victims across County Durham and Darlington.”