British Transport Police review plans to scrap sex crimes unit
Plans by British Transport Police (BTP) to scrap their specialist sex crimes unit have hit the buffers after an outcry.
The force, which deals with crime on the UK's rail network, had proposed to disband the dedicated London-based unit and see sex crimes investigated by any of its officers nationwide.
Sex crimes on trains and the London Underground rose to 1,399 in 2014/15, up from 1,117 the previous year, after the BTP helped launch the Report It To Stop It awareness campaign.
The proposal had been intended to boost crime detection rates and see the sexual offences unit's experience "captured, standardised and embedded as best practice" throughout the force.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Newton said last month: "Under the new operating model, sexual offences will be investigated by any of the 269 officers dedicated to crime, nationally, enhancing our ability to investigate sexual offences."
But following the announcement, BTP said feedback it had received raised a concern that the move "undermines" victims' trust in the force and it would now be reviewed.
Mr Newton said victims had shown "courage" in reporting sex offences, adding: "We now want to build on that trust and ensure that we not only deal effectively with each and every case that is reported to us, but that we also look at ways to prevent the offences from happening in the first place.
"Through our crime review we are committed to ensuring that more of our officers have the skills to support vulnerable victims and are given specialist training to target and prosecute offenders.
"However, over the past week, we have listened carefully to the views being expressed about the decision to absorb officers from the sexual offences unit in London into our wider crime investigation plans and acknowledge that this may unintentionally have caused concern.
"This concern undermines everything we are trying to achieve. That is why we have decided to halt any proposed changes to the sexual offences unit whilst we carry out an urgent review of the implications of this decision, to see whether it remains valid in light of the feedback we have received."