A UK police unit actively “encouraged” to rape victims to retract allegations to boost cleared case rates, says a highly critical new report.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), a police watchdog body, found a south London sex crime unit had its own “standard operating procedure” to cut down the number of rapes officially recorded as crimes.
The IPCC said the Southwark Sapphire squad’s approach of “failing to believe victims” was “wholly inappropriate.”
BBC News reports, the IPCC previously carried out four previous inquiries into the Southwark Sapphire unit, which is dedicated to investigating rapes.
This latest investigation is the police watchdog’s ninth investigation into the Metropolitan Police Service’s (Met) response to victims of sexual violence.
When asked to comment on the report, a Met spokesman said substantial changes had now been made.
But home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said three Metropolitan officers who had been facing possible dismissal over a previous bungled investigation into the serial sex offender Kirk Reid were still employed by the force.
In fact, two of them — a superintendent and a detective inspector — have been promoted, while just one detective sergeant is facing disciplinary proceedings for alleged gross misconduct over the allegations, said BBC News.
Commenting on the report, IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass said: [partial]
“Today’s report brings to an end the IPCC’s involvement in this sorry chapter of the Sapphire Unit’s history.
“The approach of failing to believe victims in the first instance was wholly inappropriate. The pressure to meet targets as a measure of success, rather than focusing on the outcome for the victim, resulted in the police losing sight of what policing is about – protecting the public and deterring and detecting crime …
“….The Metropolitan Police Service must now ensure that this improvement is built on and continues and remain vigilant to ensure that they do not lose focus on this area as other policing priorities emerge, or as they face further pressure on resources.”
A fuller extract of the Metropolitan Police Service’s response follows:
“The Metropolitan Police Service welcomes the findings of the IPCC report into the investigation of rape on Southwark borough between July 2008 and September 2009.
“We have for some time acknowledged that previous investigation of rape and serious sexual assault in the MPS was below standard. The activities identified in this report came during that era and highlight specific issues within Southwark which resulted in unacceptable actions by local officers.
“It is as a result of such failings that we have made substantial changes to the investigation of rape and serious sexual assault, both in terms of structure and revised working practices …
“We not complacent and know there is always more that can be done to improve our service to victims. That is why we continue to work closely with key partners including the CPS, the Havens and charities such as Rape Crisis …”
Disturbingly, in one case investigated by Southwark’s Sapphire Unit, a woman was pressured to drop a rape claim against a man who went on to murder his two children. Jean Say killed his son and daughter two years ago when they went to stay with him for a weekend. An earlier rape allegation against him was dismissed by a detective sergeant in the Sapphire unit who said the context did not amount to rape because the woman “consented,” The Guardian notes.