Two MPS officers given warnings over handling of rape allegation
11 Oct 2019 03:34 PM
Two Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers whose conduct was inappropriate and insensitive while taking an account from a 15-year-old who had been raped by a stranger hours earlier have been sanctioned by a disciplinary panel, following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation.
PC Michael Silverthorne and PC Stephen Tanner were the first responders to reports a teenage girl had been raped on 26 February 2017 and attended the girl’s home. Body-worn video footage of their conversation with the girl was subsequently viewed by MPS officers and a referral was made to the IOPC in April 2017.
The girl’s attacker was arrested and charged, and in September 2017 was convicted of rape and jailed for seven and a half years.
We completed our investigation in November 2018 and concluded both officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct which the MPS agreed with.
At a misconduct hearing which ended on 3rd October, the independent panel found both officers to have breached some standards of professional behaviour and gave PC Silverthorne a final written warning for gross misconduct and PC Tanner a written warning for misconduct.
The hearing found that the actions of PC Silverthorne breached the standards of professional behaviour in relation to duties and responsibilities and authority, respect and courtesy. The standard of challenging and reporting improper conduct was found not proven. The actions of PC Tanner were found to have breached the standards of professional behaviour in relation to duties and responsibilities, authority, respect and courtesy, and challenging and reporting improper conduct.
The footage, which was shown to the panel, showed the 15-year-old initially engaging with the officers and providing a clear account of her ordeal, which had taken place in a Croydon car park only a few hours earlier.
PC Silverthorne repeatedly emphasised to the girl that going through with the allegation of rape would be a very traumatic ordeal, questioning if she was sure she wanted to go through with it. He also made a number of incorrect statements. He told her she must have all of a list of forensic tests conducted, that she would need to attend the Old Bailey and stand in the dock to give her account, and pressured her that she must make her decision in the next hour. He did not make her aware of special measures provisions available that help vulnerable witnesses give their best evidence in court. He used the word ‘allegation’ on more than 10 occasions and the word ‘rape’ a number of times, contrary to MPS policy. He also failed to record her account as is required as a first responder.
While the footage shows PC Silverthorne led the conversation with the girl, it also recorded dialogue PC Tanner had with a two separate colleagues over his radio shortly after they arrived at the address where he expressed doubts over her credibility. He also failed to record her account, as required as a first responder and did not effectively challenge PC Silverthorne’s approach during the interaction. In his statement he said he did not consider that PC Silverthorne had conducted himself incorrectly, which was in contrast to colleagues who on viewing the footage raised the matter with senior officers.
IOPC Regional Director Sal Naseem said: “The conduct of these officers in how they spoke with a 15-year-old girl who it was later proved had been raped by a stranger only hours earlier was concerning.
“The independent panel found that the officers did not intentionally set out to dissuade the girl but that their failings were serious, and could have damaged public confidence. The officers’ demeanour clearly suggested they did not believe the girl at a time when her account should have been formally recorded. An individual shouId have their allegation recorded with an objective investigation to follow. It is of credit to this teenager, and the MPS officers who took this investigation on afterwards, that the rape was investigated properly and the offender subsequently jailed. The actions of the two officers might have prevented that from happening.”