Monday, 24 September 2007 12:26 PM

Good Results for Police Sexual Assault Unit

Investigation into a number of sexual offences have resulted in the arrest and charging of six men for offences that include indecent assault, incest and rape.

Investigation into a number of sexual offences have resulted in the arrest and charging of six men for offences that include indecent assault, incest and rape.

Police media reports that detectives from the Sexual Assault Unit, in the past six weeks, have charged five offenders for a range of sexual offences.

With one currently remanded in police custody, all five offenders are expected to appear in court again later this month.

Currently there are three men on trial for rape in the High Court.

The Solomon Islands Police Force Sexual Assault Unit (SAU), formed in 2004 and a part of the National Investigations Unit, is a "very busy unit" consisting of four female officers and a male detective, and is assisted by three Participating Police Force (PPF) Advisors.

Sergeant Florence Taro, who heads the Unit, believes that more convictions are occurring because more victims are reporting sex crimes to the SAU.

She said prior to the formation of the Sexual Assault Unit, sex crimes were reported to any available police officer, and women were reluctant to report such sensitive crimes to men.

"Now we have the unit staffed predominately by women, so it stands to reason that women are more likely to come forward," Sergeant Taro said.

With the Unit's steadily built reputation for being successful, community confidence in the police is also growing, with the public now having trust that police will act and investigate complaints.

"As the confidence in the Sexual Assault Unit grows, the more people will come forward. This is why we are seeing a higher rate of reported offences and not necessarily an increase in the actual crime rate," Sergeant Taro said.

With the development of the internet and technology, the SAU has dealt with cases involving the trafficking of pornography online. A 20 year old male and a 22 year old male were convicted recently for trafficking obscene images on the internet.

The convicted men were fined and ordered to pay compensation to the victim.

Sergeant Taro is very happy with the team's performance and also appreciates assistance from other stakeholders.

"We get excellent support from the Police Forensic team. They do an extraordinary job in supporting our unit. We also work closely with the Health Department and non-government organisations such as the National Council of Women, Christian Care Centre and the Family Support Centre."

"We have also formed a liaison with hospital staff to have victims of sexual abuse examined by doctors as a priority," Sergeant Taro said.

With National Women's Week happening at the moment, it is a timely reminder that sexual assault is an issue the entire community needs to address.

"Sexual assault is a problem everyone in the community needs to be aware of and assist the police to stop these crimes. We urge victims of sexual assault to come forward so the matter can be investigated."