Work has begun on the Operation Soteria Bluestone project which brings together leading academics from across the UK to work alongside police officers and seeks to improve the investigation and response to rape and serious sexual assault. The research will mirror the methodology of Project Bluestone with Avon & Somerset Police but with four new forces on board - The Metropolitan Police Service, Durham Police, West Midlands Police and South Wales Police.
The research is split into six workstreams all looking at different aspects of the investigative process: suspect focused investigations, challenging and disrupting repeat offenders, victim engagement, learning and development and wellbeing, review of data, and performance and digital forensics.
The CPRL research team, led by Principal Investigator Dr Emma Williams, are working on the learning and development and wellbeing workstream and will seek to explore the relationship between the training delivered in the four forces for those involved in RASSO investigations, their developmental requirements and how these are identified, learning experiences and officer wellbeing.
Working with Emma on the project are Daniela Abinashi, Richard Harding, Dr Linda Maguire, Dr Nicky Miller, Jennifer Norman, Dr Arun Sondh, Dr Rachel Ward and Ria Williams.
Here we find out more from the team about why they wanted to get involved in the project and what they will be working on…
I spent over 12 years in the Metropolitan Police Service working predominantly with Professor Betsy Stanko (academic lead for Bluestone) as a principal researcher. Much of the work I conducted there was focused on the London Rape review which explored attrition and detail of the cases leaving the criminal justice system in London for over 11 years. Prior to this I did a short stint in the London Rape Crisis Centre reviewing the training of their volunteers. My PhD was focused on rape investigation, exploring officers' perceptions about why reform in this area had not impacted on attrition and change in this critical area of police work. I am honoured to be involved in this innovative and exciting collaboration between police and academics which brings together a long history of research in this area with practitioner expertise in an attempt to make a real difference for victims of rape and sexual assault and the officers involved in investigating this crime.Dr Emma Williams, Principal Investigator
I am a Research Consultant on the Learning and Development strand of Operation Soteria Bluestone, focusing predominantly on the qualitative analysis of officer interviews and focus groups. I am really excited to be part of this, as this is a long-standing research interest for me and the work we are doing promises to have such an amazing direct, positive, practical impact. I previously worked in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and have been involved in the MPS Rape Reviews that took place between 2005 and 2012. In 2014 I joined the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) where I was the lead researcher on the 2019 London Rape Review. I am currently working on a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy - and whilst this is a bit of a shift to a different field for me, I plan to focus my thesis on the therapeutic support needs of rape survivors. I am also really interested in reflective practice and am hoping to be able to bring my Counselling Psychology hat to the table in this respect.Daniela Abinashi, Consultant
I was fortunate enough to be asked to support the Bluestone project with Avon and Somerset and subsequently Operation Soteria Bluestone, the major national, cross institutional, research programme seeking to improve the outcomes in rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases from a policing and wider criminal justice system (CJS) perspective, and importantly for victims and survivors.
I wanted to be involved not only because in the light of too many tragic events this topic is at the forefront of the minds of the public, politicians and the police and this presents a very real possibility for positive change in a history of repeated failures to do so, but also because it allows me to bring to bear my previous practitioner experience and the knowledge and learning from my previous research to contribute to helping to realise this possibility.
I’m excited about this research because as noted it presents the possibility of improving outcomes for victims and survivors, but also of improving how policing and the wider CJS understands, engages with and manages the threat to, primarily, women from these types of offences and the offenders who commit them to hopefully reduce the number of people who need to be classified as victims and survivors in the future. I’m also privileged to be working alongside colleagues, not only from the CPRL, but across academia who have developed deep and enduring understandings of this and related subjects and I hope to stand on their shoulders to see that little bit further and widen my own knowledge, perspectives and academic capabilities.Richard Harding, Research Fellow
I am thrilled to be working with the team on such a high-profile project as Operation Soteria Bluestone. I will be using qualitative data collection methods, including undertaking interviews and focus groups, as well as providing analysis and feedback, to support the overall findings for this work pillar. It is exciting to work on a project which has the potential to influence RASSO learning and development, including the wellbeing and support on offer for police officers who work in this challenging area.Dr Linda Maguire, Research Fellow
I have spent the majority of my career working in the field of applied police research with a focus on improving serious crime investigations. With regards to Operation Soteria Bluestone, I have directly supported the investigative process through my research on, for example, understanding the nature and extent of male rape and the linking of serious sexual assault through behaviour. In addition, as a Principal Analyst for the Serious Crime Analysis Section (now part of the National Crime Agency), I had the opportunity to manage and conduct research in support of the analytical process. This included an assessment of the quality of rape victim interviews that was used to inform improvements to national training in this area. I am looking forward to being able to apply my research skills and knowledge to what I see as a ground-breaking programme of police and academics working together to improve understanding and practice in this much needed area of investigations. I am involved in the in-depth review of the learning and development material as regards RASSO training, as well as helping to develop recommendations from the research that can be translated into policing practice.Dr Nicky Miller, Director of Knowledge into Practice
Jenny Norman worked as a researcher in the MPS for several years. Her work predominantly involved research on the rape review in London which was conducted over several years. It is this that drove the decision to develop Project Bluestone. Jenny is a qualitative researcher and her insights into this area of Policing will be imperative to the project. Jenny also has much expertise in developing practical outputs from research recommendations.Jenny Norman, Research Fellow
My role will focus on the quantitative aspects of Operation Soteria Bluestone, Pillar 4, and in particular examining which staffing, police learning and development and wellbeing factors impact on rape and sexual offences outcomes. With CPRL colleagues, I have been working on developing a cross-sectional survey for police officers focusing on these three areas. My interest in this topic is related to the impact that this second phase can make on a highly complex and multifactorial problem that has been too often characterised by high attrition and low conviction rates. This is a great opportunity to effect meaningful and lasting change in this area.Dr Arun Sondhi, Research Fellow
I’m a Police Sergeant on secondment from Devon and Cornwall Police to the Department of Policing Organisation and Practice at the OU. I’m really interested in officer wellbeing and trauma-informed policing, so when I heard about the project from a colleague I was really keen to be involved and help in whatever way I can. I’m analysing the wellbeing materials, and bringing my policing experience to the team. I think this is really important research and a real synthesis between practitioners and academics leading to genuine knowledge into practice. I’m excited to be working with and learning from such esteemed colleagues.Dr Rachel Ward, Research Fellow
I have been working at the Centre for two years now and recently started my new role as Project Manager for the Operation Soteria Bluestone project. My role is to support the research team and to keep a tight rein on the progress of research activities. There are four forces involved in the project and we only have three months at each site, so the deadlines are tight! I am excited and very grateful to be involved in such an important project and believe the research can really make a difference to the outcome of rape investigations and at the same time improve victim experience and officer wellbeing.Ria Williams, Project Manager
To find out more about the project please contact the Project Team.
The photo above features the following members of the research team, from left to right; Rachel Ward, Arun Sondhi, Emma Williams, Richard Harding, Nicky Miller, Ria Williams and Linda Maguire