Giving Voice to the Victims of Sexual Assault: the Role of Police Leadership in Organisational Change

Michael Rowe, Michael Macauley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this paper is to evaluate a long-term programme within a police service that sought to transform the policing of adult sexual assault cases through reforming case management and investigation practices, as well as cultural perspectives among staff.

The study is based on a case-study approach of change and reform within a single police service. Fieldwork consisted of more than 240 semi-structured interviews and focus groups with police officers, civilian staff, victim advocates, crown prosecutors, defence lawyers, doctors and staff from victim specialist support agencies. Extensive documentary analysis supplemented the primary findings.

Changes to investigations of sexual assault were perceived to be wide-ranging and deeply embedded, and were regarded positively by police officers, staff and external agencies. These are identified in terms of improvements to initial reporting of offences, the development of more rigorous case management and investigations, and enhanced relations with external support agencies.

Research limitations/implications
The study is necessarily limited to one case study and the analysis would be usefully developed through further application to other police services.

Social implications
The findings have considerable implications for police leaders and managers and wider society. Victim support and recovery agencies benefit from the reforms outlined, and there are considerable consequences for wider criminal justice that continues to disadvantage victims.

The paper has considerable originality since it offers a “deep” and “thick” understanding of reform within a particular context. The programme of reform was highly unusual since it was designed and delivered over a ten-year period and addressed many aspects of police organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-407
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Early online date24 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2019


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