A former Scotland Yard detective was jailed yesterday for sabotaging a string of rape and sex assault cases by faking interviews with suspects and falsifying records in a "calculated abuse" of victims' trust.
Ryan Coleman-Farrow was sentenced to 16 months in prison for scuppering police inquiries, meaning that attacks reported by victims ranging from a 14-year-old boy to a 96-year-old woman were not properly investigated. The former detective constable failed to follow up basic inquiries, ignored potential evidence from CCTV footage and made up statements by witnesses, and then lied to some of those victims about the outcome of their cases, telling them that prosecutors had decided against pressing charges.
The 30-year-old was described by investigators as a "rogue" policeman who deliberately misled his superiors in the Metropolitan Police's Sapphire sex crime investigation unit. Scotland Yard said it had tightened up procedures but a group representing victims said it would seek further assurances that individual officers could not bring down inquiries in future.
The force is prepared for further criticism of the way it has handled sex crime allegations. The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is due to report shortly on the failings of one south London Sapphire team between 2008 and 2009, while another officer is under inquiry for allegations said to be similar to those faced by Coleman-Farrow.
Mark Heywood, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court yesterday that 13 cases were effectively shut down by Coleman-Farrow's interventions, as he sought to "cover his own failings and lack of capacity".
The falsehoods had the effect of reducing his workload between 2007 and 2010 while he was based with the Kingston upon Thames Sapphire team in south-west London. Thirty-two cases had to be re-examined. Coleman-Farrow, who admitted 13 counts of misconduct in public office at a hearing last month, was sacked last year.
The cases included an alleged attack on a 96-year-old woman by her son, a reported indecent assault on a 14-year-old boy during a school lesson, and an alleged attack by a restaurant waiter on a 15-year-old girl.
His deceptions meant that rapes had no realistic chance of conviction despite being looked at again by detectives. In the one case that came to court, a man accused of raping a woman during a student party was found not guilty by a jury.
Coleman-Farrow was told by the trial judge that he was behind "calculated" conduct that made prosecutions impossible. "The effect that this sort of conduct has on public confidence should not be underestimated," said Judge Alistair McCreath.
The Sapphire unit was overhauled in 2009 following the conviction of one of Britain's most prolific sex attackers, the black cab driver John Worboys, who was found to have continued attacking women after officers did not believe some victims' claims.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said yesterday women should have confidence in reporting sex crimes to the police. However the group Rape Crisis questioned the police watchdog's description of Coleman-Farrow as a "rogue" officer and said Met had to demonstrate that there could be no repeat of such falsifications.
"It seems too easy to say it's a rogue individual," said Dianne Whitfield a board member of Rape Crisis. "We want to see the evidence that actually this wasn't about systemic failings."
Coleman-Farrow was being investigated by the force in 2010 but the case was handed over to the police watchdog after two sex workers killed themselves. One of them, Jaime Perlman, accused a team headed by Coleman-Farrow of failing to investigate properly her complaints about a stalker. An inquest cleared Coleman-Farrow of wrongdoing in that case.
The victims: denied justice
They were aged from 14 to 96. They were schoolchildren, students, vulnerable adults and pensioners. What they had in common was that they were denied any justice because their files crossed the desk of Ryan Coleman-Farrow.
Most of them complained of rape, including one woman who arrived at a police station in the early hours of the morning barely able to walk. She named her alleged attacker and played back a voicemail from him in which he requested her to take the morning-after pill because he "could not be responsible for a baby".
The inquiry went nowhere after Coleman-Farrow failed to interview witnesses, did not recover CCTV footage and made up a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service.
The court heard Coleman-Farrow also failed to interview professional carers who reported arriving for a home visit to discover a highly distressed 96-year-old woman. Her son was suspected of sexually abusing her. Coleman-Farrow failed to send scientific samples for analysis. The woman died within a year of the alleged attack.
Similar deceptions were repeated in a series of cases run by Coleman-Farrow that were never fully investigated: a 18-year-old student allegedly raped after going to another man's room, a women allegedly attacked by former partners, and a woman who said she'd become pregnant after being raped. She had been told police would be in contact for a DNA test of her baby to try to identify the suspect. They did not.