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A police specialist rape investigation unit: a comparative analysis of performance and victim care

Rumney, Philip N.S.; McPhee, Duncan; Fenton, Rachel A.; Williams, Anneleise

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Philip N.S. Rumney

Rachel A. Fenton

Anneleise Williams


© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This article examines quantitative and qualitative data in an analysis of the workings of a specialist rape investigation unit and compares its performance with a non-specialist investigative approach. This is the first study to examine the work of a specialist rape investigation unit in this way. The research finds that the specialist unit outperformed the non-specialist investigative approach in many, though not all performance measures, including charging and ‘reached court’ rates in rape cases, retention of cases characterised by complex victim vulnerability, allocation of Sexual Assault Investigation Trained (SAIT) officers, rate of referral to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) and accuracy of crime recording. Further, police officer interview data suggest that team working and support, communication and a sense of common purpose were distinctive features of the specialist unit, when contrasted to experience of working in a non-specialist policing environment. These findings have policy and resource implications for the policing of rape and the need to achieve the best possible investigative standards in sexual offence cases, including the provision of appropriate care and addressing the needs of highly vulnerable victims. The article concludes by arguing that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that investigative specialism is a crucial element in the police response to rape.


Rumney, P. N., McPhee, D., Fenton, R. A., & Williams, A. (2020). A police specialist rape investigation unit: a comparative analysis of performance and victim care. Policing and Society, 30(5), 548-568.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 7, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 25, 2019
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Jan 7, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 26, 2020
Journal Policing and Society
Print ISSN 1043-9463
Electronic ISSN 1477-2728
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 5
Pages 548-568
Keywords rape, policing, victims, investigative specialism, specialist units
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Copyright Statement
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in An International Journal of Research and Policy on 25th April 2019, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.”

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