Hampshire police seeks to make 'improvements' after critical report into care of Havant teen Louise Smith

POLICE in Hampshire will seek to make ‘improvements’ in its handling of rape and sexual offences after a report criticised the force over its contact with murdered Havant teen Louise Smith.

Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 4:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 4:55 pm

A review by the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Partnership revealed that Louise reported being raped by ‘one of her peers’ a year before her death.

But the 16-year-old was not fully supported when Hampshire police told her no further action would be taken over the allegation, according to the report.

Hampshire Constabulary has responded by saying officers ‘welcome the findings of the review and recognise that (they) can still make improvements in this area’, according to Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli .

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Hampshire Constabulary has responded to a critical report that found a lack of support offered to 16-year-old Louise Smith after she reported being raped by 'one of her peers' a year before her death . Picture: Hampshire Constabulary

Chief Supt Raj Kohli said: ‘The learning from this will form part of our renewed focus into violence against women and girls.

‘We are also adapting the national Project Bluestone documentation – a programme that sees police professionals work alongside prominent academics to transform the police response to rape and sexual offences - to accompany investigative decisions of no further action.’7

Last October saw the police and crime commissioner for Hampshire, Donna Jones, secure more than £648,755 of funding from the Home Office to tackle violence against women and girls.

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The safeguarding report, by independent scrutineer Jon Chapman, recommended that the force ‘review its process when providing victims of rape and serious sexual assault with an investigative outcome’ and where possible involve a ‘supporting person or professional’.

Chief Supt Kohli said this was ‘already common practice’ within the police.

He added: ‘Since January 2021, we have been building on our relationships with partner agencies supplying an ISVA service (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor). We meet with them on a regular basis to discuss serious sexual offence cases and co-ordinate how they can provide specialist support when police deliver investigative outcomes to victims of crime.’

Police commissioner Donna Jones said she would be taking up the review’s findings with the chief constable as ‘a matter of urgency’.

She said: ‘I only became aware of this Serious Case Review yesterday. It appears that failings within Hampshire Constabulary are apparent.

‘Cases of rape and serious sexual offences are high on my priorities and I have been working with the Government as part of a wider review and fed back concerns to criminal justice partners across Hampshire about the improvements that I wish to see.’

The report’s recommendation is not related to Louise Smith’s murder, which happened a year after her rape claim and saw Shane Mays, 30, from Havant, jailed for life over her death.

Chief Supt Kohli said: ‘This was a very sad case relating to the terrible death of a teenage girl and is simply heart-breaking.

‘We have engaged with the review process, and we acknowledge the single recommendation for Hampshire Constabulary. Although the recommendation is not related to the death itself, as a constabulary we seek to learn at all times.

‘Protecting members of our community who are most at risk of coming to harm is an absolute priority for us.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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