Almost 2,000 police and community support officers have been accused of sex offences including rape, sexual assault and child sex offences over the past four years, official data has revealed amid the outcry over Sarah Everard’s horrific murder by a serving Met officer.
The allegations – made mostly against men – include more than 370 of sexual assault, nearly 100 of rape and 18 of child sex offences, according to Freedom of Information figures – and just eight per cent of those accusations led to a dismissal, 39 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales said.
But police officers across the country accused of serious offences – including having sex with a female colleague on police premises, sleeping with a drug dealer and even taking cash from a dead person – have been granted anonymity after being dismissed or disciplined in secret hearings.
Forces are reportedly holding hearings in private despite misconduct legislation being designed to maintain ‘transparency where possible’. They are reportedly sending out ambiguous and anonymised misconduct outcomes that fail to detail the officer’s rank and nature of their offending and have blocked journalists from making the argument for open proceedings.
Official figures seen by the Times show forces also delete public misconduct outcomes relating to the most serious offenders, including the notice that detailed the sacking of serving Met officer Wayne Couzens, who kidnapped, raped and murdered Miss Everard in March.
It comes three days after it was announced that Baroness Casey will lead a review into Scotland Yard’s culture and vetting processes which will re-examine historical sexual misconduct allegations involving officers still serving in the force.
The review, in response to Sarah Everard’s murder by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens, will re-examine historical sexual misconduct allegations involving officers still serving in the force.
A separate independent inquiry announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel last week will investigate the ‘systemic’ failures that allowed Couzens, 48, to be employed as a police officer despite reports of indecent exposure and other signs he could be dangerous.
Baroness Casey will lead a review into Scotland Yard’s culture and vetting processes which will re-examine historical sexual misconduct allegations involving officers still serving in the force. The review, in response to Sarah Everard’s murder by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens, will re-examine historical sexual misconduct allegations involving officers still serving in the force
Pictured: Met chief Cressida Dick and Home Secretary Priti Patel in November last year
Do rogue officers face justice? Misconduct hearings explained
There are two types of public hearings for the most serious cases of misconduct.
Chief constables can hold accelerated hearings when evidence is irrefutable, often because an officer has pleaded guilty to a crime.
Open hearings, in which officers are named and the public can attend, are the starting point of legislation and Home Office guidance.
Officers can be granted anonymity, or hearings can be private, because of extenuating circumstances. These can include national security, the risk of prejudicing a court case or risks to welfare of parties.
Home Office guidance states: ‘Blanket restrictions should be avoided and careful consideration should be given to which parts of the hearing can remain open.’
The parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer was said to have been referred to as ‘The Rapist’ by former colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary because he made women feel uncomfortable. In March this year, he used his police-issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest of Miss Everard, a 33-year-old marketing manager, before killing her.
The Times reported that in the past month there were more than 40 misconduct outcome notices published relating to officers and staff in England and Wales – and nearly half of them were anonymised.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that there have been 1,147 hearings since 2018. Forces were unable to say whether 502 of them were held in public or private. Of the remaining 645 hearings, one in four were held in private, the paper added.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council told the paper: ‘Without question, it’s expected and important in terms of accountability and public trust for every force to demonstrate the greatest levels of transparency possible around misconduct hearings and outcomes.’
The body said dismissed officers were placed on the barred list. However, the list is only searchable by the name of the officer, which is not possible in cases where they are given anonymity.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition – which includes organisations such as Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid – said few officers faced ‘any meaningful consequences’ for sexual misconduct against women and girls.
The group’s deputy director Deniz Ugur called for a radical overhaul of how police respond to violence against women, adding: ‘Ultimately, we need to address these widespread institutional failings before we can even begin to address women’s confidence in the police.’
A separate study from Bournemouth University found there were 514 proven cases of sexual misconduct across 33 forces in the past five years – the most common of which was ‘abuse of position for a sexual purpose’.
According to the Bournemouth research, the most common sexual misconduct offence involved officers allegedly using their power to form a relationship with a victim for sexually motivated purposes.
In March this year, Couzens used his police-issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest of Miss Everard, a 33-year-old marketing manager, before killing her
One such officer was detective constable Jatinder Bunger who was jailed for ten months in May. The former Lancashire Police officer admitted sending sexual messages to victims and obtaining intimate images from the phones of vulnerable women – including a rape victim.
The research also found that, of the 514 proven cases of sexual misconduct, 15 per cent involved officers who were at sergeant rank or higher.
Thirty officers were at a senior level of inspector or above – with the highest-ranking being an assistant chief constable. Separate data shows there were more than 500 claims of sexual offences against officers and staff at Scotland Yard between 2016 and 2020.
The findings are the latest blow for the police service and come just a week after the Mail revealed that nearly 1,000 officers and staff have been probed for posting offensive social media content.
The freedom of information figures are set to be broadcast in Channel 4’s Cops on Trial: Dispatches tonight.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Louise Rolfe told the programme: ‘We absolutely must, in policing, get to the bottom of what might have been behind these cases.
‘We know, very sadly, a small number of people are attracted to policing because of the power, the control and the opportunity it affords them. Our vetting processes are designed to root those people out.’
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said it was down to individual forces to stamp out abuses of police powers.