Pilot scheme allows online reports of sexual assault
Main article content
Leicestershire Police is one of four UK forces piloting a new service to report sexual assault online – with the option to report anonymously.
The new online Rape and Sexual Assault reporting service is now live on the websites of Leicestershire Police, British Transport Police, Merseyside Police and Dyfed Powys Police.
It was created by the National Police Chief’s Council’s (NPCC) Digital Public Contact Programme (DPC) and launched on Tuesday 30 November.
The pilot will run for six weeks.
People wishing to report sexual offences have until now been directed to phone police forces, text 61016 in the case of British Transport Police, or dial 999 in an emergency.
If they do not require immediate police assistance, people – regardless of age or if they want to report the crime – will be directed online via their local force website.
They will find advice and details of charities and other organisations that can help. The forces will ask, if the person is willing, for details of what has happened. There is an option to report the offence anonymously.
If reported anonymously, the police will only contact that person if there is believed to be an immediate threat to their life.
Detective Chief Inspector Lucy Batchelor said: “We know from research and experience that there are many reasons why survivors and witnesses don’t come forward and report sexual offences to the police and we want to change that, giving more options to report offences including the option to report anonymously.
“We understand people are apprehensive about giving personal details and we have been working to look at how we can invite greater reporting, which can help us prevent further crimes and bring offenders to justice.
“Every report provides us with valuable information. And if people aren’t comfortable with making that report, then we want them to know how they can get the support and help they need.
“This new service in not only innovative in the way it has been designed – from the ground up in consultation with more than 40 organisations (including Rape Crisis, End Violence Against Women and the Survivors Trust) – but also in the way it is being deployed – online where people, especially younger people, increasingly are.”
When visiting the websites of those forces, options are available to report a sexual offence themselves, on behalf on another person, or as a witness. People can choose to report in English or Welsh.
If the pilot is successful, it will become a permanent reporting feature and will be available for other forces to adopt nationally.
Millie Gant, Manager at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) here in Leicestershire said: “Online reporting of sexual offences offers a safe, clear and effective way to report and share information with the police.
“I am impressed with the ‘Support before Report’ approach, which is a first for policing. The provision at every stage offers information and links to access specialist support, with no pressure to formally report until ready.
“This demonstrates how committed the police are in ensuring that support is prioritised over a formal police report.”