HPS Releases Results of Unfounded Sexual Assault Review

Sexual Assault Community Review Committee Makes Recommendations

Hamilton Police Service has concluded its 18-month review of unfounded sexual assault investigations and made five recommendations to improve service delivery for victims of sexual violence. The report will be presented to the Police Services Board on Thursday, November 22, 2018.

The review, which began in November 2017, was a result of a Globe and Mail article showing police dismiss one in five sexual assault claims. The article indicated Hamilton Police had a 30 per cent unfounded sexual assault rate – higher than the national and provincial averages.

“This Sexual Assault Review was important. It was important to our service, to our community, and most significantly, to those victims of sexual violence in Hamilton that need our support. In undertaking this review, we had one end goal – to improve service delivery to victims of sexual assault,” said Chief Eric Girt. “We believe this report identifies where there are gaps in service and how we can address them to deliver the best possible response and care to victims.”

The scope of the review included an internal and external analysis of unfounded HPS sexual assault investigations, as well as looking at policies and procedures, records management practices and training.

The review found that the current coding practices used across the country were inconsistent and limiting, Detectives needed a better understanding around how sexual assault victims respond to trauma and there were errors in how unfounded investigations were coded.

The external review also involved the creation of the Sexual Assault Community Review Team (SACRT), which included members from the Woman Abuse Working Group and the Ministry of the Attorney General. The SACRT met 21 times over an eight-month period and conducted a random sample audit of 63 Hamilton Police Sexual Assault investigations. Based on the review, the SACRT found only 25 per cent of the unfounded investigations were captured correctly.

"The SACRT worked collaboratively and thoroughly to develop comprehensive recommendations for improving experience, service and outcomes for victims of sexual violence reporting to police. We commend the Hamilton Police Service for their willingness to engage the community in a transparent process and maintaining an open-minded approach to learning and improving,” said the SACRT Committee Members.

Using a framework based on the Violence Against Women Case Review Model, the SACRT created a model that was unique to Hamilton. The committee reviewed each case as a group to ensure that all perspectives and collective knowledge was shared so that consensus could be reached regarding each file.

The SACRT highlighted five recommendations to improve service delivery to sexual assault victims:

  • Permanent Sexual Assault Community Review Team
  • Additional Staffing and Resources
  • Ongoing Education and Training
  • Changes to Policy, Procedures and Oversight
  • Special Considerations for Vulnerable Populations

“As a service, we’re committed to implementing the recommendations put forward by the SACRT and have already made many of the changes highlighted in the Sexual Assault Review,” said Chief Girt. “We thank everyone who participated in the review for their commitment to victims of sexual violence. By working together, we can make a difference in the lives of our victims.”

Go to https://hamiltonpolice.on.ca/sites/default/files/november_22-full_agenda_-_public.pdf for the full report.