‘How on earth did they get through?’ Met Police vetting under fire over offender officers

Rules around getting rid of unfit officers ‘crazy’, admits Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

Adam Forrest
Thursday 06 April 2023 12:48 BST
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The Metropolitan Police’s vetting system is under fire after it emerged that convicted sex offenders were among those with criminal convictions still serving in the force.

Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said there are “sex offender cases” and “serious violence cases” among the 161 officers with criminal convictions – admitting the rules around getting rid of unfit staff were “crazy”.

Calling for powers to sack rogue cops, he said it was "nonsensical" he does not have the power to dismiss officers. "If you expect me to sort out the cultural issues in the Met and get rid of the people, then give me the power to do it,” her said.

Susan Hall, chair of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, said the figures “proved” the current Scotland Yard vetting service is not “fit for purpose”.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if she was prepared to accept 161 officers with convictions, she said: “No. How on earth did they ever get through?”

Ms Hall added “It does prove that the vetting service isn’t fit for purpose. They’ve got to set the bar much higher. We’ve got to make sure that the public have confidence in our police force.”

The country’s biggest police force has moved officers from tackling serious and organised crime and counter-terrorism to internal standards to help clean-up its own workforce.

The Met has admitted 161 officers have criminal convictions, including three serving officers have convictions for sexual offences. Another 49 have convictions for crimes of dishonesty or violence – eight of whom committed the offences while they were police officers and remain serving with the force.

Sir Mark told the Radio 4 Today programme: “I think the current policy is too permissive and leaves too much ground for interpretation. There’s certainly some people when I looked at the list and thought, ‘Crikey – that’s not right’.”

But the commissioner admitted that it was “crazy” that there is not enough “leeway” to dismiss the “hundreds” of people in the force who should not be there – agreeing that the regulations have to change for necessary dismissals.

He told the BBC the force is under police regulations rather than “normal employment law”, adding: “Those regulations over time have become byzantine and complex.

Sir Mark said: “People will be shocked. Some of the people on that list of criminal convictions are people that the Met has sacked [and been reinstated].”

The commissioner added: “So not having clear provision to dismiss people who have failed the re-vetting process is crazy.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

Patsy Stevenson, the campaigner arrested at a vigil for Sarah Everard, said she was not “holding my breath” when it comes to change at the force.

She told the BBC: “I don’t trust them, which is scary because a lot of women out there who won’t trust the police for the reason they don’t think anything will be done or for the reason that they might be speaking to someone who is an abuser themselves.”

More than 1,000 records where officers and staff were accused of domestic violence or sexual offences in the past 10 years have now been checked to make sure the right decision was taken.

Sir Mark said that of the 1,131 individuals whose cases were reviewed, 246 will see no further action; 689 will have their case reassessed; and 196 will be referred into formal risk management measures and may have their vetting status reviewed.

Vetting rules have already been toughened up with officers and staff being revetted if their behaviour is of concern, for example following a criminal investigation or misconduct hearing where they stay in the job.

Home secretary Suella Braverman said: “Sir Mark’s update on the work to root out unfit officers demonstrates the scale of this challenge but I have confidence in his plan to turn around the Met and ensure the force is delivering for the public.”

The Tory cabinet minister added: “I am also driving forward work to review the police dismissals process to ensure the system is effective at removing officers who fall below the standards we expect.”

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence, told Times Radio that Commissioner Rowley had to “earn” her confidence – saying his plans to fix corruption in the Met will “only be as good as the actions and outcomes”.

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