London, Ont., police make changes after review of sexual assault investigations

After an eye-popping report that showed London police dismiss almost half of all its sexual assault complaints as 'unfounded, ' the force now says only six per cent of such cases were.

Police chose to launch a probe into their own sexual-assault investigations in the wake of a February media report about how police departments nationwide handle such allegations. That represented 44 per cent of all sexual assault complaints - a high number compared to other jurisdictions.

An internal London Police Services review of 1,030 sexual assault investigations has concluded with a six per cent unfounded rate between 2010-16, a far cry from the 33 per cent rate initially listed for 2014.

Unfounded is a legal designation that was applied to cases in which the results of an investigation did not meet the threshold to lay criminal charges, a victim choose not to move forward with charges, or the allegation was proven to be false with corroborating evidence.

Greater Sudbury Police have termed it as a "coding error" that contributed to 33 per cent of almost 400 dismissed sexual assault cases being classified as "unfounded".

As a result of the review, police are changing the manner in which sexual assault cases are classified to better convey belief in victims.

"Unfortunately, categorizing investigations in which there was inadequate evidence to support a charge or the complainant chose to not participate, as unfounded left the incorrect impression that victims were not believed by investigators", Pare said. Only cases in which there is evidence that a sexual assault did not take place will now be categorized as unfounded.

A part of the review will include an external investigation into random unfounded and founded cases in order to ensure cases are property assessed by police.

The LPS is also aiming to increase support for victims of sexual violence, continue consultation with community and justice partners, and increase training for investigators.

The terms of reference for the review process will be developed by a new advisory committee that will be comprised of community representatives and police service members.

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