A number of rape cases are to be re-examined by Northumbria Police over fears that they were wrongly recorded as a ‘no crime’.
Northumbria Police chief constable Sue Sim said she has ordered an immediate ‘comprehensive investigation’ of all reported rape cases since October 2011.
Meanwhile, Northumbria police and crime commissioner Vera Baird said she had ‘grave concerns’ over the cases, which were picked up in a recent audit by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The force is to carry out further investigations into 11 of the 33 alleged rapes, which have been listed as “no crime”. This involves people who later tell officers that no crime took place.
Mrs Sim said: “As soon as I became aware of the issue I instructed a comprehensive investigation of all reported rape cases since October 2011 where a ‘no crime’ of rape has subsequently been recorded.
“As an interim measure those dealing with any case where decisions are being further examined have been moved. This is not to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation but to reassure the public that we have taken all the necessary steps to ensure professional standards are maintained.
“If any officer has failed to reach the high standards expected of them this will be dealt with through the proper procedures.
“Anyone who reports a rape to us should be confident that we will take them seriously, investigate thoroughly and bring offenders to justice wherever we can. If any victim has concerns about the way their case has been handled they should get in touch with us. They have my personal assurance that we will look into their concerns properly.”
A dedicated team of trained officers are dealing with it and may be able to help anyone who may have been affected by it, a spokesman said.
All victims identified in the cases will be contacted as part of the investigations to discuss the circumstances of what happened to them.
Officers involved in the affected cases have been moved until the circumstances have been determined and have not been suspended.
Ms Baird said: “My role as police and crime commissioner is to determine that the police are doing everything within their powers to support victims of crime.
“I have reviewed the cases and did have grave concerns, asking that a number be looked at again. This has happened and appropriate action is now being taken.
“I’m fully supportive of the prompt action the chief constable has taken and I’m confident that a thorough investigation will take place and I will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Sexual assault including rape is one of my key priorities and I’m committed to ensuring victims feel confident to report such crimes and are reassured that they will be taken seriously and will be properly investigated by specially trained officers.
“Where needed, I will ensure that lessons are learnt and action taken.”
Ms Baird told the BBC: “A typical pattern was a woman who complained of rape when she’d had a great deal to drink.
“They interviewed the defendant the next day and he said she had consented and then the day after that there was a retraction statement from her.
“Actually, if a woman or a man is very drunk they are unable to consent or withdraw consent.
“They just don’t have the capacity and so each and every one of those...should have been investigated.
“There’s another set which were domestic ones - somebody has sex with their partner but sometimes they impose it upon them.
“The police did not seem to take those seriously either.”