2,000 police officers accused of sexual misconduct in past four years

National Police Chiefs’ Council admits some people drawn to policing by power and potential to abuse it

Jon Sharman
Monday 11 October 2021 11:36
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Related video: Patel announces inquiry into Wayne Couzens’ hiring by Metropolitan Police

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Some 2,000 allegations of sexual misconduct including rape have been levelled against serving police officers over the last four years, according to data released under freedom of information rules.

Figures from 39 forces showed nearly two-thirds of complaints were discontinued, but that about 30 per cent of officers, special constables or PCSOs accused of sexual misconduct had previously faced separate claims of wrongdoing.

Among the complaints were more than 370 allegations of sexual assault, almost 100 accusations of rape, and 18 alleged child sex offences. Overall, there were 514 proven allegations across 33 police forces.

However, just one third of guilty workers were sacked in cases where sexual misconduct complaints were upheld, according to numbers uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches.

Perpetrators appeared to target vulnerable people, researchers from Bournemouth University said. Two fifths of victims had previously suffered domestic abuse, one fifth had mental health problems and one quarter had been sexually assaulted in the past.

Damian Hinds, a Home Office minister, described the revelations as “shocking”. He added: “It is important that there is process to go through in those cases, and an accusation must be followed by looking into it properly.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council admitted some people were attracted to policing “because of the power, the control and the opportunity it affords them”. Louisa Rolfe, the body’s public protection lead, told Dispatches: “We absolutely must in policing get to the bottom of what might have been behind these cases.”

A separate set of figures released under freedom of information on Monday revealed that, of 750 sexual misconduct claims against police officers from 31 forces between 2016 and 2020, 34 resulted in sackings.

Their publication comes after Priti Patel announced an independent inquiry to examine the “systematic failures” that allowed Sarah Everard’s killer, Wayne Couzens, to be employed as a police officer.

Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead a separate review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police in the wake of Ms Everard’s murder. Couzens, who has now been jailed for life, used his police-issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard before raping and murdering her.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which oversees the police complaints system, said it was down to forces to “stamp out” any abuse of police powers which it described as a “serious betrayal of trust”.

A spokesperson said: “The abuse of police powers for purposes of sexual exploitation, or violence, has a devastating impact on victims and a serious impact on the public’s confidence in individual officers and the service in general.

“It is critical there are effective systems in place to prevent, monitor and deal swiftly with any individual who exploits that trust. In the context of the police service, this behaviour is a form of corruption and should be dealt with as such.”

The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups such as Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women’s Aid, said few officers faced meaningful consequences for violence against women and girls.

Denzi Ugur, its deputy director, said: “We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women, especially within their own ranks.

“This means greater accountability and urgent, co-ordinated and strategic action to address violence against women. Ultimately, we need to address these widespread institutional failings before we can even begin to address women’s confidence in the police.”

Additional reporting by PA Media

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