Today
Sun 5 December 2021

London’s police force has faced repeated questions about its role in sexual misconduct allegations in recent years, reports Sam Bright

As many as 26 members of the Metropolitan Police were arrested between January 2018 and August 2020 for sexual offences, a previously unpublished Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveals.

The events of the past week have generated renewed scrutiny and criticism about the role of the police – in particular the largest force in the country, the Met – in relation to sexual harassment cases and violent attacks against women.

According to the FOI request, a total of 58 Met officers and staff members faced sexual misconduct proceedings over the course of the 19 months. Twenty-eight of these individuals were dismissed without notice, eight “would have been dismissed” but left of their own accord, and the remainder were given warnings of different severities.

In 2019, The Independent found that the overwhelming majority of sexual assault complaints made against members of the Met were not subject to formal action. Covering the period from January 2012 to June 2018, The Independent’s FOI request showed that 562 officers were accused of sexual assault and only 43 faced subsequent proceedings. Twelve of these individuals faced informal “management action”.

The Independent reported that members of the public submitted 313 of the allegations, while fellow police staff submitted 249. The newspaper’s findings were backed up just a month later by the Guardian, which had submitted a similar FOI request – enquiring about sexual misconduct claims fielded by police forces across the country.

Police officers, special constables and police community support officers faced 1,491 complaints of sexual misconduct across 33 forces in England and Wales between 2012 and 2017 – or 2018 in the case of the Met – the Guardian found.

More than one-third of the total complaints were against members of the Met, which took a year to respond to the Guardian’s FOI request. Authorities are typically required to respond within 20 working days.

The Guardian reported the case of a Met officer who was dismissed after a rape survivor complained that the appointed investigating officer in her case “took advantage of her vulnerability and had sex with her on two occasions and sexual contact on others, while still the officer in the case”. Another officer was dismissed after allegations that they had been part of a sexual relationship with a resident of a women’s refuge.

“Sexual misconduct and abuse of authority for sexual purpose will not be tolerated in the Metropolitan Police service, and its prevention and reduction are priorities for us,” a Met spokesperson told the Guardian. “Expectations, advice and guidance have been, and continue to be, publicised within the service and victims are encouraged to come forward.”

A Bureau of Investigative Journalism report in the same month, May 2019, found that members of the police were reported for alleged domestic abuse almost 700 times in the three years up to April 2018 – more than four times a week on average. The Bureau also found that accusations of domestic abuse against members of the police were a third less likely to end in a conviction than claims against the general public.

Responding to the Bureau’s findings, the National Police Chiefs Council and the College for Policing said that measures existed to ensure that abuse perpetrated by police officers is properly investigated and that “police officers who commit domestic abuse-related offences should not be treated differently to any other suspect”.

The Metropolitan Police did not respond to Byline Times’ request for comment.

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