2 October 2019
More than 400 referrals for cases relating to police officers’ abuse of position for a sexual purpose have been completed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in the three years to the end of March 2019.
The figures were revealed in a PEEL spotlight report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) called ‘Shining a light on betrayal’. HMICFRS commissioned a review due to concern about forces’ progress in tackling the issue.
The Police Federation of England and Wales, however, has responded by saying the actions of a small minority of officers should not ruin the reputation of the vast majority who would never take advantage of their position in such a deplorable way.
“Those who would seek to take advantage of their position as a police officer in this way have no place in the police service. Police officers exist to serve and protect their communities and those who abuse the trust placed in them should face the full weight of the law,” says Tony Wetton, chair of Derbyshire Police Federation.
From April 2016 to March 2017, forces made 100 referrals relating to police officers’ abuse of position for sexual purpose. This increased to 172 in the following 12 months and to 43 referrals up to 31 March 2019.
According to HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, forces have been slow in the past to take the steps necessary to root out this type of corruption but many are now being more proactive in looking for signs.
Ms Billingham said ‘only a tiny proportion of police officers and staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose’ and added: “The vast majority of police officers and staff are dedicated public servants who would never contemplate this inexcusable behaviour.”
Responding to the report, Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We welcome the report as it is important forces take the right steps to prevent and tackle this issue, however, it must be reiterated that officers do not stand for this type of abhorrent behaviour and are often the ones who themselves root out the tiny minority who abuse their position.”
The IOPC figures also do not include outcomes, he explained, therefore wrongdoing was not necessarily found following these investigations which subject officers to malicious and vexatious allegations.
He added the small rise in referrals to the police watchdog for abuse of position for a sexual purpose is relative to an increase in referrals across the board for other conduct matters and generally the reporting of sexual offences has rocketed in recent years.
He continued: “More victims are having the courage to speak out to the police, so it is frustrating when these incidents occur as it undermines the hard work of a majority of officers who always do the best they can to help victims and guide them through the criminal justice process which can be hugely daunting especially for victims of sexual abuse.”
The report also says the inspectorate is ‘deeply concerned’ by the proportion of people working in forces who don’t have the correct vetting and recommends forces should: