Implementation, what’s stopping it?
: an exploration of police response to rape investigation, and the implementation of the 2015 Joint CPS and Police Rape Action Plan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Tackling rape and serious sexual offences remains a key priority for policing, it is one of the most serious offences that a person can survive. There has been extensive and valuable research centring on the complainants’ experiences, but fewer studies which focus on the police response, and fewer still that examine the relationship and correlation between the two. Up to now the focus is directed towards the lack of standards pertaining to the quality-of-service delivery, which arguably has led to an inconsistent experience for the victim. Notwithstanding the physical and emotional stress this causes, this inconsistent victim ‘journey’ can have a significant and detrimental impact on the administration of justice and remains a national issue.
The research appraises the reality and validity of this assumption through the police and wider CJS agencies awareness of the 2015 Rape Action Plan and associated toolkits. To achieve this the research used a two staged approach. The intention of the first phase was not to generalise and undertook an exploratory assessment of what’s really going on. A small purposive sample group which involved interviewing senior police officers within one UK police force presented a good opportunity to obtain the rich information required to deliver an informative understanding of the use and implementation of the 2015 Rape Action Plan. The participants were asked a series of questions on its content and application.
The second phase examines the broader policing response to rape investigations, further interviews and questionnaires were completed with senior investigators, investigators, CPS, Sexual Offence Examiners and Forensic Services utilising the Rape Action Plan (2015) as the focus for determining the actual reality.
The 2015 Rape Action Plan was used as the cue for the content and structure of the interviews for each research phase. Semi Structured Interviews and a survey was formulated with a series of questions which captured their role, experience and the investigative processes from crime scene to court (awareness and training of the 2015 Rape Action Plan, first response and actions, CPS, Rape Myths and attitudes).
The research then considered the impact of the themes identified from the data to gauge the influence this has had on the delivery of operational and investigative practice. The research identified many residing issues that the police face and indicated that the implementation of the Rape Action Plan (2015) was ‘patchy’ attributed to failure to land rather than a failure in policy. The participants outlined a positive cultural change in their approach and treatment of victims of rape but they highlighted inconsistencies in the supervision and management of serious and sexual investigation, and a differing response from uniform officers to that of investigators. The predominant concern was managing an excessive workload and subsequent demand which has coincided with the exponential growth and use of digital technologies amidst the prevailing impact of organisational change.
The findings from this research questions the continued path the Criminal Justice System is taking with sexual offences, with so many reforms, reviews, guidance documents, the residing issues remain with the complainants of these serious offences reporting many of the same issues. The policing effort is often shaped through the lack of resources and complexities across the whole of the justice system. In order to make real change and move forward there is a need to look back and understand the history of what worked and more importantly what didn’t. As it currently stands the victims journey is far from consistent and the change cannot be delivered effectively without everyone in the CJS getting better.
Date of AwardFeb 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorJonathan Charles Fox (Supervisor) & Paul Smith (Supervisor)

Cite this