Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Phoenix Rises to Win Back Justice

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Phoenix Rises to Win Back Justice

Article excerpt

Byline: By Karl Barrow

With another "cold case" sex-crime arrest being made by Northumbria Police's pioneering Phoenix investigations team, Home Office Police Standards Unit spokesman Karl Barrow explains how the operation is being used as a blueprint nationwide

One of the objectives of the Home Office Police Standards Unit is to identify, support and evaluate good practice and methods in policing which will help to offer an improved service, to victims in particular.

As part of this work, in September 2003 the PSU began working with Northumbria and two other forces, all of whom were doing important work in identifying undetected cases of "stranger" rape and serious sexual assault.

The unit is applying recent advances in DNA technology to material from the crime scene to try to identify the offender using the national DNA database which now holds the DNA "fingerprints" of more than 2.7 million people.

Most of these "cold cases" stretched back over 20 years. Despite this, the three forces clearly demonstrated it was possible to extract DNA profiles from crime scene material in more than 85% of cases examined. Also, they achieved a 100% conviction rate against those charged.

The oldest case that has so far been cleared up was committed in 1979. The offender in that case is now serving life for that offence and two other rapes in Northumbria.

Last year, Hazel Blears MP, the Minister for Policing at the Home Office, said Northumbria police's Operation Phoenix had become a blueprint for other forces worldwide to copy in relation to the re-investigation of sex crime.

The PSU's independent evaluation of this pilot project work in Northumbria, South Wales, and the Metropolitan force clearly demonstrated its potential to bring dangerous offenders to justice and prevent future offences.

Encouraged by this, in February 2004, the PSU began Operation Advance providing pounds 375,000 to enable forensic scientists to try to extract DNA profiles from 215 unsolved rapes and serious sexual assaults across England and Wales. …

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