Only One London Cop Has Been Fired for Sexual Assault in Nine Years, Despite 459 Complaints

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act poses questions about the way the city's Metropolitan Police investigates its own abuses of power.

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Dec 3 2015, 6:00pm

Photo by Ray Forster

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

London's Metropolitan Police have sacked a grand total of one officer for allegations of sexual assault since 2006, despite receiving 459 complaints from the public.

Just four allegations of sexual assault were found to be "substantiated" by the Met's internal investigations, which works out at as less than one in 100.

Here's how those number look:

Graphic by Georgia Weisz

This new data was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and runs from January 1, 2006 to August 15, 2015. It poses more questions about the way the force investigates its own abuses of power, coming weeks after VICE revealed that ten officers had been dismissed from the force after more than 22,000 claims of assault in nine years. When I got those statistics, they came with an asterisk saying "*including sexual assault," so I went back and asked more specifically for the data on sexual assault. The results were pretty stark.

Two of these cases saw formal action taken, with one officer sacked and one receiving a final written warning. Another faced "management action," while in the remaining case no action was taken. To reiterate, that's a written warning and "management action," and no action at all—for sexual assault.

A Met Police spokesperson said that a criminal prosecution was brought in one of the four substantiated cases, but failed to state what the outcome was in that instance.

Related: VICE Data Reveals Virtually No London Cops Get Fired for Allegations of Sexual Assault

More than half of the 459 allegations made—256 cases or 56 percent—were found by internal police investigators to be "unsubstantiated."

Sexual abuse has been an issue for the police for years. Three years ago, Dame Anne Owers, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), spoke out against sexual abuse by police in England and Wales and warned: "It is essential to ensure that systems are in place to prevent, monitor, and deal swiftly with any individual who exploits that trust." This new data suggests that the warning wasn't heeded by the Met.

In 2011, Northumbria constable Stephen Mitchell was jailed for life for a number of serious sex attacks against women he met through working as a police officer. A year later, Trevor Gray, a detective sergeant with Nottinghamshire police, was jailed for eight years for raping a mother in her own home.

Dame Owers used the 2012 IPCC investigation into sexual abuse to call on: "senior leaders in the police service to be alert and determined to root out this kind of abuse of power. All cases of serious corruption cases should be referred to the IPCC. That includes all cases involving sexual exploitation by officers or police staff, which the IPCC will prioritize and investigate independently wherever possible."

The Met's record investigating its own officers for sexual assault has similarities with national figures for achieving convictions in rape and sexual assault cases in society at large.

Data published earlier this year by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) showed that the number of reported rapes that led to convictions in England and Wales fell from 17 percent to 12 percent in 2014/15.

In London, 3,742 adult rape cases were reported as well as 1,337 child cases in the financial year of 2014/15. Just 188 rape convictions were bought in the calendar year of 2014.

Harriet Wistrich is a lawyer at Birnberg Peirce who is representing eight women who are seeking compensation claims against the Met, after they became involved in long-term relationships with undercover officers who had been tasked with infiltrating activist groups they were involved in.

"These numbers are alarming, and speak to a lack of ability and willingness at the Met to hold officers to account," she said.

"It's a grotesque abuse of power. It's hard to believe that only four cases have been substantiated by the Met in nine years. Any officer found to have sexually assaulted members of the public should be prosecuted and any officer having sex with a member of public during the course of their duty should as a minimum lose their job.

"The police have had a poor record pursuing rape and sexual assault cases and historically there is a culture of sexism in the force. Given the apparent impunity police officers who are accused of sexual assault enjoy, it looks like that culture is ongoing."

The spokesperson from the Met stated that the force take allegations of sexual assault against officers "very seriously."

"The MPS treats each occasion when an allegation of misconduct is made about a member of its staff very seriously and fully investigates in every case to determine whether a criminal offense or a breach of the standards of behavior has taken place," they said.

"Where, on examination of the available evidence, the conduct of our officers is found to have fallen below the standards expected, the MPS will take robust action, either by pursuing criminal prosecution, misconduct proceedings, or both. All MPS employees are expected to conduct themselves professionally, ethically, and with the utmost integrity at all times.

"Where, a misconduct investigation finds sufficient evidence to suggest misconduct may have occurred this is recorded as 'substantiated/case to answer.' This is not in itself a finding guilt and the officer will have an opportunity to present their own counter-evidence at misconduct proceedings before a determination is made as to whether the allegation is proven."

Of the cases that didn't fall into the categories "substantiated" or "unsubstantiated," 25 were dealt with using local resolutions—a mechanism where the complaint is resolved using an agreement between the member of the public and the police. 47 cases were withdrawn by the complainant before the case could be investigated.

A further 52 cases are still awaiting any kind of result, including two which date back to 2012.

11 investigations were discontinued by the force, due to a lack of cooperation from a complainant, according to a Met definition. The remaining 58 cases were not investigated before they could be found to be substantiated or resolved using local resolution, with reasons such as more than 12 months have passed in between the alleged assault and the complaint being made, or failure to ascertain the name or address of the complainant.

The spokesperson confirmed that all officers involved in unsubstantiated, withdrawn, or locally resolved allegations are free to return to work once the cases are concluded.

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