NPCC welcomes new independent adviser to Rape Review

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has welcomed appointment of Professor Katrin Hohl as independent adviser to the Rape Review.

Feb 19, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Professor Katrin Hohl

Professor Hohl was one of the lead academics on Operation Soteria, the transformational approach to the investigation of rape and sexual offences, which all 43 forces have signed up to and are implementing.

Chief Constable Sarah Crew, NPCC lead for adult sexual offences and the joint senior responsible officer for Operation Soteria, said: “I am delighted to see that Professor Katrin Hohl has been announced as the independent adviser to the Rape Review. Her knowledge and expertise which she has brought to Operation Soteria will ensure the voices of victims are heard at the most senior decision-making level.

“Professor Hohl, alongside Professor Betsy Stanko, was responsible for the academic rigour and vital research that has enabled the National Operating Model for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences to be brought to life.

“Her passion for driving change, holding police to account and doing the best for victims are an asset for this role and I wish her all the best.

“We will continue to drive forward and build on her brilliant work, by tackling perpetrators of these awful crimes and ensuring victims get the justice they want and deserve.”

The Government announced the appointment last week and said: “Having led a ground-breaking scheme to overhaul the way in which police forces investigate rape – Operation Soteria – Professor Hohl also carried out one of the largest ever surveys of victims to better understand how they can be supported.”

The most recent data shows that adult rape prosecutions are higher than any other period in the past six years, and if maintained, will reach the highest levels seen in a decade.

The latest Ministry of Justice quarterly statistics (July-September 2023) show there were 1,470 referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – 92 per higher than the Government ‘ambition’ of 766.

There were 668 charges by the CPS – 24 per cent higher than the ambition of 538 – with a 20 per cent increase (665) in cases arriving at Crown Court.

A government spokes[person said: “The number of adult rape cases arriving at the Crown Court is higher than at any point since 2014.

“This is a significant achievement, going beyond our initial targets to continually increase the numbers of victims having their cases heard in court year by year.”

Following her appointment, Professor Hohl said: “Rape is the most serious survivable crime in English and Welsh law.

“The purpose of the Rape Review is to reform the criminal justice process so it is fit for purpose for rape victims and effective in holding perpetrators to account. As the independent adviser, I will challenge and support the Government in achieving this ambition.

“I commend the progress made to date. My priority is to help tackle the remaining challenges, such as timeliness, strengthening victims’ rights and meeting victims’ needs, head-on.”

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, welcomed the appointment of Professor Hohl and said: “Her expertise and knowledge will be invaluable as we strive for further progress across the Rape Review’s outstanding actions and recommendations.

“This is a good appointment. As Operation Soteria rolls out nationwide, I look forward to working with Professor Hohl in monitoring and evaluating its effectiveness.”

Baroness Newlove said she remains “cautiously optimistic” about Rape Review progress, but was concerned it risks being undermined by court delays and barrister shortages.

“I am encouraged to see further progress against the key metrics of the Rape Review, including increased police referrals, charges, and cases reaching the Crown Court over 2016 levels,” said the Victims’ Commissioner. “This clearly marks a step in the right direction, and I remain cautiously optimistic about the direction of travel.

“While I commend the progress made to date, we must recognise the changed landscape in 2024 and adjust our sights accordingly. There has been a significant increase in reported rapes in 2023 compared to 2016 and 2019 (the year the Rape Review was commissioned). Instead of simply reaching 2016 charging levels, we must now view them as a new baseline – a floor not to be breached – no longer the ceiling to aspire to.

“The advances made by police and CPS are to be welcomed, especially from the low point in 2019. We must build on this progress. But this requires an efficient courts and justice system. Chronic delays, record backlogs, and high victim withdrawal rates are now real and growing concerns. Rape cases are taking far too long to come to and progress through the courts.

“New survey data from criminal barristers suggests this might worsen, with a projected fall in the number of barristers willing to take on the necessary work. This is hugely concerning. Operation Soteria and other welcome initiatives stemming from the rape review do not account for a clogged-up and creaking justice system. Unless we take significant action to tackle the systemic delays in our court system, we risk failing victims of rape and sexual assault once again.”

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