Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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Met Police officers disciplined for unprofessional and insensitive conduct following allegations of rapes
Three Metropolitan Police officers have been disciplined after an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into how they handled two allegations of rape.
The officers, two trainee Detective Constables (T/DC) and a Detective Constable (DC), worked in the Southwark Sapphire Team in May 2009 when two women reported they had been raped in separate incidents. The reports were made within 24hours of each other.
The IPCC independent investigation found that the officers dealt with the women in an unprofessional and insensitive manner. This included giving the women negative information about the likelihood of a successful prosecution and inaccurate details of how a specialist medical examination would be conducted.
As a result the two women initially withdrew their reports, although they both later provided statements to the IPCC, and one (Miss B) provided a further statement to the MPS so that an investigation into her rape allegation could be undertaken.
The IPCC investigation found that all three officers had a case to answer and the Metropolitan Police Service proposed they face misconduct hearings. These were held earlier this year and two of the officers, the DC and one of the T/DCs, admitted the allegations and were given written warnings.
However, in the case of the third officer the hearing was adjourned. This was because while preparing to give evidence one of the women, Miss B, made a further allegation that additional comments had been added to her original rape statement without her permission.
The IPCC investigated this and the officer admitted that he had made additions to her statement. The T/DC told the investigation that he had added the extra sentences because after re-reading the original statement when the victim had left he did not think it conveyed her intention to withdraw the allegation. His intention, he said, had been to avoid having to take a further statement from the woman to clarify her intention.
At a hearing in July 2011 the gross misconduct allegations regarding the additions to Miss B’s statement were found to be proven. The officer also admitted misconduct allegations about his general conduct during the two incidents. He received a final written warning.
IPCC Commissioner for London Deborah Glass said: “Victims of sexual violence should be treated with sensitivity, respect and professionalism. This plainly did not happen the first time two women came forward to report their allegations.
“It is hugely disappointing that a small number of officers behaved in this way and those officers have now been disciplined. While systems and processes have changed significantly since these events, they can still be undermined by the actions of individuals - public confidence would be far better served if the police got it right first time. The Metropolitan Police cannot be complacent in this area and must ensure that the officers who respond to victims earn their trust at the outset.
“Having discussed the outcome with Miss B I know that she is keen to encourage victims of rape who feel let down by the police not to remain silent, nor to lose all confidence in the police. It is reassuring that, having reported her concerns about the initial response, she found that the police took them very seriously and immediately launched a new investigation, and she was full of praise for the officers who dealt with her subsequently. “
Details of the complaints are as follows:
On the evening of Thursday 21 May 2009 Miss A, a woman holiday in England, went into Walworth Police Station with her friend to make an allegation of rape that had occurred the previous night. She gave her first account to a police officer in the early hours of the next morning. The earliest available appointment for forensic examination was 6am that morning and so the woman voluntarily stayed at the station until then.
An appointment was made for the interview to take place at Lewisham Sapphire Unit later that day and the woman went to her friends flat to rest until then. At about 4.30pm the woman received a phone call asking if she still wanted to be interviewed. The woman told the IPCC investigation she was surprised and angry about this.
At about 5pm the two T/DCs arrived at the flat she was staying at, and the woman and her friend came out to go to the station. One of the officers told the woman’s friend she would not be able to come with her as there was nowhere at Lewisham Police Station for him to wait.
They got into a car and the officers started to ask the woman for more detail of what had happened. The woman became agitated, telling them that she had spent the whole night making a statement and that everything was included in that statement.
One of the officers told her they were concerned that she had not given strong enough evidence to convict the suspect. The other officer told her that she was sure that something terrible had happened to her that night, but that it did not necessarily mean that it was enough to convict the suspect.
The second officer also told the woman that they had dealt with ‘loads of similar cases, most of which were worse than hers and that it may take years until the suspect was charged’. She stated that the woman did not say “No” enough to the suspect on the spot, which would make it difficult to convict him.
The exchange upset the woman and while still in the car she said she no longer wanted to make a statement. She then asked if she could get her belongings back that she had left with officers the night before.
These were at Walworth Police Station and while there one of the officers wrote a statement out, which the woman then signed. It stated that she did not understand what the offence of rape was until the officer explained it to her and that at no point did she make it clear to him that she did not want to have sex with the man involved.
When she got back to her flat and spoke to her friend who persuaded her to make a complaint. Her complaint was independently investigated, although she returned home and was not available to give evidence at the hearing.
On Friday 22 May 2009, Miss B reported that she had been raped. After giving a brief account to a female police officer, she then spoke to two male officers who talked her through “facts about cases like these”.
The officer told her that only 5% of suspects ever got convicted and that because she had been drinking her memory could not be trusted. They also said the medical exam could last six hours, as well as inaccurately describing it.
Neither officer made any reference to her well-being and the woman was left feeling like she would get no support from the police. By approximately 11.30pm, having not slept for 36 hours and believing that she had no case, the woman wanted to leave. The T/DC wrote a statement on her behalf, stating that she had sex with a man but that it was consensual. She signed the statement and went home.
After speaking to two friends, she decided to go to a sexual assault referral centre, The Haven, the next day where she told the doctor and nurse there what had happened. They were appalled by what she was told and advised the woman to make a complaint.