Dr Katrin Hohl, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, collaborated with Avon and Somerset Constabulary in a ground breaking research project which will transform the way police respond to rape and sexual offences


Project Bluestone invited Dr Katrin Hohl and other academics to work with specialist police officers in order to improve the experiences of sexual assault survivors, tighten the grip on offenders and help address falling conviction rates for rape and sexual assaults.

The project featured in a report by BBC Newsnight and the findings were launched at an online event which invited 255 participants from key criminal justice agencies and representatives of local police forces.

Dr Hohl and her Project Bluestone colleagues worked with victim support services, barristers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to identify five pillars to improve police responses to rape:

  • Suspect focused investigations
  • Challenging and disrupting repeat offenders
  • A system procedural justice approach to victim engagement
  • Officer learning, development and wellbeing
  • Review of data and performance

The findings come at a time when national reports show prosecutions for rape and sexual assault have fallen over the past three years, despite more cases being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.

During the project, the academics also found flaws in current police protocols around long delays in investigations, not picking up repeat offenders and poor risk assessments which put survivors in danger.

Never before has a police force opened itself to in-depth 360 degree academic scrutiny in the way Avon and Somerset Police has done as part of this project. The problems we identified through this collaborative research are unlikely to be unique to this police force.

I am excited to see Avon and Somerset Police now implementing a new evidence-based approach to rape investigations that no longer frontloads the investigation of the credibility of the victim at the expense of a timely investigation of suspects, and adopts a systematic procedural justice approach to how police treat survivors.

– Dr Katrin Hohl, Senior Lecturer in Criminology

This is an opportunity for us to bring about real and sustainable change, putting the victim experience, and their wellbeing, at the heart of everything we do.

– Sarah Crew, Avon and Somerset Police Deputy Chief Constable

For more information on Project Bluestone see Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

For more information on Dr Katrin Hohl and City see Department of Sociology.

If you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse, recent or non-recent, you don’t have to speak to the police. You can self-refer to The Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre available 24/7 365 days a year. Visit their website at www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk or call 0117 342 6999.

Safelink also provides support for anyone who has been the victim of rape and sexual abuse across the whole of Avon and Somerset area.  Visit their website: www.safelinksupport.co.uk, call 0333 323 1543  or email Safe.Link@safelinksupport.co.uk

For more advice and support, visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org