Police criticised after women 'lose confidence' in rape squad


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The Independent Online

The head of Scotland Yard's specialist sex-crimes task force defended its record yesterday after a big decrease in the reporting of rape in the capital led victims' groups to claim women had lost confidence in police.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie, the head of the Sapphire unit, was giving evidence to the London Assembly's police and crime committee after official figures showed a 14 per cent drop in reported rapes since April. He said Sapphire was being restructured and could even be merged into "some larger safeguarding command".

Women's groups told the hearing they were continuing to see more rape victims asking for support, suggesting that the number of attacks in Greater London was still rising but fewer victims were telling police about their ordeals.

Mr Duthie told the committee: "It is a big concern to me and the Met in general. Over the past 12 months, there has been a 10 per cent decrease in reporting … We are doing some research into why that might be. Is it the case that the incidence of rape has reduced? We doubt that."

The Sapphire unit, supposed to be the gold standard for investigating sexual offences in the country, also came under fire last month when a former Sapphire officer, Ryan Coleman-Farrow, was jailed for 16 months for failing to investigate rapes, pursue suspects or submit evidence over a three-year period. His activities left 11 alleged sex attackers at large.

Mr Duthie said changes to Sapphire should prevent a similar crisis. The unit, which has nearly 500 officers in 18 small teams across the capital, will be reformed to create five larger regional teams, meaning that officers will be under closer supervision.

Mr Duthie said: "Coleman-Farrow was before my time but that doesn't mean we haven't considered his actions. We need to make sure all our staff are properly supervised. We have increased levels of supervision. We are very intrusive and have a more robust performance framework."