A nationwide campaign launches today, calling on victims of unwanted sexual behaviour to report offences to police, no matter how small.
Every Report Builds a Picture highlights how multiple reports from different people can help BTP ‘build a picture’ of offenders – even if some of those cases don’t make it to court.
This is the second phase of the Report It To Stop It campaign, which was launched in 2015 to tackle under-reporting of sexual offences.
Research showed that following this campaign, there was an increase in reporting of sexual offences, but some victims were still unsure whether anything could or would be done to catch the offender.
The campaign centres on a video of a man with a pixelated face, which is overlaid by the sound of victims recounting what has happened to them. As each report is heard, the man’s face becomes clearer. He is then arrested.
Unwanted sexual behaviour is anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable. Passengers can report anything of a sexual nature, including rubbing, groping, masturbation, leering, sexual comments and indecent acts. Victims don’t have to prove that it was a criminal offence or that it was committed intentionally, as our officers will investigate that.
The targeted week of action starting today will see uniformed officers step up patrols and advise commuters on how to report unwanted sexual behaviour. We want people to know they can discreetly text 61016, which is monitored by our control room.
Plain clothes officers will also be looking out for any potential offenders on the network.
Further days of engagement and action will be carried out in the coming weeks to support the campaign, with officers handing out leaflets and giving advice to commuters and tourists.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Furnell said: “Tackling all forms of unwanted sexual behaviour on the railway is a priority for us.
“Each report we receive provides us with valuable information which we can use to build a picture of an offender. The sooner we receive a report, the better chance we have of catching the offender.
“We want people to know that even if they think something is too small to be taken seriously by police, that is not the case. Often it allows us to notice a pattern of offending behaviour and we will take action.
“Although normally an increase in reported crime is seen as negative, we welcome the increased reporting of sexual offences.
“This indicates an increased awareness that all types of unwanted sexual behaviour are unacceptable. More people have the confidence to report what has happened to them and know we will take them seriously.
“No incident is too small or trivial. We will always take you seriously.”
Watch the campaign video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_IJrpzntdA
Harriotte Lane is 16. She was sexually assaulted at Newcastle Central station in August last year.
She has waived her right to anonymity in a bid to encourage others to come forward and report any incident of unwanted sexual behaviour.
She reported the offence to police, and that directly led to another victim of the same man coming forward.
Her attacker appeared before the courts in November last year.
Harriotte, who was crowned Miss Teen Galaxy England in March this year, was travelling back from a friend’s house in Leeds on 26 August last year.
Excited about her GCSE results and having travelled alone on the train for the first time, she explained she felt very “grown up”.
But this new found confidence and independence was soon to be shattered by the actions of a stranger.
As she waved to her mum across the station and walked to meet her, the man swiftly walked past and as he did so he sexually assaulted her by grabbing her bottom.
She emerged distraught and shaken and told her mum what had happened, unsure whether it was serious enough to report.
Mum Sarah immediately told a British Transport Police officer at the station, Harriotte identified the man and he was apprehended on the spot.
Here Harriotte explains why it’s so important to make that report:
“I wasn’t aware of him, I didn’t notice him until he was four metres in front of me. He walked to the right of me and towards me. As we came shoulder to shoulder he grabbed my bum. I didn’t realise at the time that it was against the law. I didn’t realise it was sexual assault. I didn’t realise I could speak up about it. Mum knew. The police were standing right behind us and were great. We instantly went across the bridge and found the man who did it.
“It really upset me. You never really think it’ll happen to you.
“If any sexual assault happens, people need to stand up. I came forward – it was hard, I thought it was going to be embarrassing but I was taken very seriously.
“There wasn’t a moment of questioning what had happened. If it does happen to you (on the rail network) as soon as you can, report it to British Transport Police. Sexual assault isn’t ok – even if you think its minor, every situation is taken seriously by BTP."
At the time Harriotte had no idea that just a minute before, the man had also sexually assaulted a member of station staff. He eventually admitted assaulting Harriotte but denied assaulting the member of staff.
The 55-year-old was found guilty of the attack against the member of staff.
He was sentenced at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on 15 February to a 12-month community order, and 250 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £150 victim surcharge, was placed on the sex offenders register for five years and must complete a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days.
Watch Harriotte’s story here: