This is not the first time the police have got it terribly wrong on rape.

As a detective pleads guilty to misconduct on rape cases, we should not be fooled into thinking this was just another solitary incident.

Share

It’s
probably fair to say that Wednesday was not the best of days for the
police. The scandal of the Hilsborough disaster cover-up dominated the
headlines, and as many pointed out, the police need to get serious with
any officers involved who still serve. We are yet to see sufficient action on
this point.  Meanwhile, on the same day,
a smaller, but not unrelated story was reported: that Detective Constable
Ryan Coleman-Farrow has pleaded guilty
to thirteen counts of misconduct in
his handling of rape and sexual assault cases.

Let’s be clear: Mr Coleman-Farrow wasn’t just a bit incompetent. He didn’t make a scattering of daft mistakes. Not only did he not bother investigating the cases properly, but he actually falsified information to pretend that he had done. He faked computer entries, and he even claimed forensic tests had shown up negative results, when they had not even been carried out. Perhaps most sickening of all, he stated that some accusers had withdrawn their allegations when they had done no such thing.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has apparently looked into this case in some detail – the inherent failings of procedure, the loopholes in the system which allowed unsubstantiated assertions to be trusted as fact without verification, the lack of respect for victims - because they feel confident enough to assure us that Mr Coleman-Farrow is a “rogue police officer,” rather than evidence of anything more systematic. Who knows, maybe they have done, and maybe they’re right. But it won’t just be the cynical among us who are simply not satisfied with that.

After all, it’s a familiar line. “Just a rogue reporter” was the defence the News of the World stuck to for an insultingly long time over the phone-hacking and corruption scandal, wasn’t it? It was also more or less the same argument thrown out following Stephen Lawrence’s murder, in response to accusations of institutional racism. London Mayor Boris Johnson made the argument that although individual officers “may have jumped to the wrong conclusions due to a racialist mindset,” the Macphearson report into institutional racism was a “witch hunt” by the “PC brigade.” Even as recently as 2000, Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the police were “victims” of the Macphearson report.  

So one police officer found guilty of misconduct over his investigation of rape and sexual assault is hardly likely to make many waves in terms of challenging the sexual politics of policing and crime. But rape charities and survivors have long suspected that there is, at the very least, more than one “rogue officer,” with at best a poor understanding of rape. This is backed up by various studies, including a Home Office report which found that that although the percentage of rape allegations proven to be false is just 3%, if you include cases where the police simply had a “perception” that an allegation might be false, the figure shoots up to 8%.

And the growing discomfort over police understanding of rape is not eased by the nature and tone of their ‘prevention’ campaigns, either. Herts Police – to take just one example - perpetuated dangerous myths with these posters, which were described by Jocelyn Anderson of the West Mercia Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre as “victim-blaming” and “just wrong.” Following numerous complaints, West Mercia police apologised “if anyone was offended” but also made a point of stating that they were not apologising for the campaign itself, which they presumably felt to be sound and reasonable.

Yet the campaign was troubling for a number of reasons. The most obvious problem with the posters was that they addressed potential victims first, and perpetrators second. The campaign also insulted an awful lot of men, with its warning not to rape people because you could lose your job, which most people would agree is hardly the point. Perhaps most worryingly, the poster appeared to be unclear, even potentially at odds, with the law as set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. It warns: “If someone has not given their consent to sex [or touching] you could be breaking the law.” Do we see posters saying that if you take a product from a shop without paying, you could be breaking the law?

This shouldn’t need saying but apparently it still does: making yourself vulnerable isn’t a crime. Violating a person’s bodily autonomy by committing an act of violence against them is. To treat these two things as parallels or moral equivalents, as these posters did; to fail to appreciate the reason they are so problematic; to incorporate these messages into normal policing procedure, suggests that at the very least, a fundamental misunderstanding of rape exists in the force on a more institutionalised level than the IPCC’s reassurances over Coleman-Farrow’s conduct acknowledge.

We don’t know why Mr Coleman-Farrow acted so despicably, but we do know that he got away with it for longer than he should have done. Indeed, even before these thirteen counts of misconduct were brought against him, there were warning signals which, in most jobs, would surely merit some kind of performance monitoring: not least, when  two women having their cases investigated by him committed suicide and in their suicide letters made specific complaints about the detective. He was exonerated, although the complaints of “inappropriate text messaging,” and of a request being ignored, were upheld. The IPCC declared this verdict to be “satisfactory.”

Who can say why these cases did not seem worthy of police time to Mr Coleman-Farrow. Who can say whether his actions were born of malice, misogyny, or plain old fashioned incompetence. Is it just a coincidence that these two women driven to suicide, let down by justice, were sex workers, with a history of mental health problems? Perhaps so. But when myths about “classic rape” and its severity exist even at the very top of the Ministry of Justice, is it surprising that officers like Coleman-Farrow are not stopped sooner? No. No, to many of us, I’m afraid it is not surprising at all.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all