Police officers in half of British forces being investigated for exploiting powers for sexual purposes

‘It is clearly not a case of a few ‘bad apples’, abuse at this scale within the police force is a systemic issue, where abusive behaviour has become normalised,’ campaigner says

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Friday 04 March 2022 13:32 GMT
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Director of End Violence Against Women Coalition says data ‘reinforces the mountain of evidence showing that policing has a serious problem with institutional sexism, racism and misogyny’
Director of End Violence Against Women Coalition says data ‘reinforces the mountain of evidence showing that policing has a serious problem with institutional sexism, racism and misogyny’

Police officers in half of the forces around Britain are currently having their conduct probed due to allegations they wielded their power for sexual purposes, troubling new figures show.

The fresh data comes a year after Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, went missing while walking home in Clapham, southwest London, on 3 March 2021.

It later emerged Ms Everard had been kidnapped, raped and murdered by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, who was sentenced to a whole-life prison term in September.

Freedom of Information requests to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, conducted by Sky News, discovered 31 out of 260 investigations the policing watchdog are carrying out revolve around complaints of officers accused of exploiting their authority for sexual gain.

The figures revealed five police forces are involved in more than one case, while the Met Police, the UK’s largest police force, employs officers being probed by six of the investigations.

Andrea Simon, director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, told The Independent the data “reinforces the mountain of evidence showing that policing has a serious problem with institutional sexism, racism and misogyny”.

Ms Simon noted the inspectorate body for the police has demanded the response to violence against women and girls is dramatically improved.

She added: “And we know that police abuse of power for sexual purposes is a major form of corruption dealt with by the police complaints body.

“It is clearly not a case of a few ‘bad apples’, abuse at this scale within the police force is a systemic issue, where abusive behaviour has become normalised, no doubt because few ever face meaningful consequences for perpetrating violence against women and girls.

“The police hold a particular position of power and authority, so it is absolutely critical that institutions are open and transparent about abuses of this power. We can’t rebuild trust and confidence in policing without genuine accountability and a willingness to transform the internal culture of the institution.”

Amanda Hall, a sex abuse victim who had an affair with the detective investigating her case, argued the figure of 31 is the tip of the iceberg due to victims being too scared to come forward.

“I don't think 31 is anywhere near the amount of people who should have their complaints investigated. I think victims are still frightened to come forward and go through what I had to go through,” the 57-year-old told Sky News.

She said Alan Butler, a detective, exploited her vulnerability to cajole her into having an affair after she reported sexual abuse she endured as a child to the police.

Ms Hall said: “He knew that I had really severe trust issues. He told me he loved me many, many times. And I believed him. And afterwards, I would reflect on it and think of the things that he actually said to me and think how could I have been manipulated like that?

“l was extremely vulnerable at that time and I just, you know, just wanted some care and attention.”

Butler had retired as an officer but was re-employed by Warwickshire Police before being imprisoned for carrying out misconduct while in public office.

The fresh data comes after a year where the police have faced sustained criticism - with Ms Everard’s murder fuelling anger at the police over the failure to properly tackle these issues within their own ranks.

Couzens was reportedly nicknamed “the rapist” by colleagues because he made female officers feel uncomfortable. He was also accused of indecent exposure on several occasions before killing Everard.

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