British Transport Police (BtP) has slammed the brakes on plans to scrap its specialist sexual offences unit, which it said caused concern that ‘undermines everything we are trying to achieve’.
Two weeks ago, BtP assistant chief constable Mark Newton said that, following a continuous improvement review, ‘sexual offences will be investigated by any of the 269 officers dedicated to crime, nationally, enhancing our ability to investigate sexual offences’.
But on Friday Mr Newton put the plan on hold, stating: ‘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.
BtP had planned to dissolve its specialist unit
'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 while 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.’
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron welcomed the rethink. He told the Mirror: ‘As we said last week, the investigation of sex crimes needs dedicated support and specialist officers - not to be treated in the same way as bicycle theft. With reports of sexual offences on public transport tripling in the last year, the police cannot afford to be complacent.
‘This review must ensure that sexual assault and harassment are treated as priorities by the British Transport Police, and that the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of offenders are secured.’