Hundreds of sexual assault allegations made against police officers, shocking data shows

11 October 2021, 00:01 | Updated: 11 October 2021, 08:27

A total of 750 allegations of sexual assault have been made against police officers between 2016 and 2020
A total of 750 allegations of sexual assault have been made against police officers between 2016 and 2020. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct were made against serving police officers across Britain over five years, with many not resulting in the officers being dismissed.

At least 750 accusations were made against officers across 31 police forces between 2016 and 2020, according to responses to a Freedom of Information (FoI) Request made by the PA news agency.

At least 34 resulted in dismissals, although seven others were listed as resulting in resignation or dismissal, and at least six officers would have been dismissed had they not resigned first.

On Monday, Home Office minister Damian Hinds told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "Yes of course it is a shocking figure and it is important that there is process to go through in those cases, and an accusation must be followed by looking into it properly and in some cases there will be full procedures."

Not all forces detailed the sanctions taken against officers.

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The FoI asked forces in England, Wales and Scotland how many complaints of sexual assault were made against serving police officers in each of these years.

Complaints could relate to historic allegations and most, where the gender was recorded, were against male officers, the data shows.

The responses did not indicate whether any of the officers were on duty at the time of the alleged incidents.

There are 43 police forces covering England and Wales, as well as Police Scotland and the British Transport Police.

A publicly available response to a different FoI request revealed the Metropolitan Police - the UK's largest police force - recorded 530 allegations of sexual offences against serving officers and staff members between 2016 and 2020.

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Of the claims, 47 resulted in officers or staff being dismissed without notice.

The allegations include those made by other members of the force, and were mostly made against male officers and staff.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups such as Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women's Aid, said few officers face "any meaningful consequences" for violence against women and girls.

"We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women - especially within their own ranks," said deputy director Denzi Ugur.

"This means greater accountability and urgent, co-ordinated and strategic action to address violence against women.

"Ultimately, we need to address these widespread institutional failings before we can even begin to address women's confidence in the police."

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The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which oversees the police complaints system, said it was down to forces to "stamp out" any abuse of police powers and that cases of sexual assault by officers could "never be justified or condoned".

A spokesperson said: "The abuse of police powers for purposes of sexual exploitation, or violence, has a devastating impact on victims, and a serious impact on the public's confidence in individual officers and the service in general.

"It is critical there are effective systems in place to prevent, monitor and deal swiftly with any individual who exploits that trust.

"In the context of the police service, this behaviour is a form of corruption and should be dealt with as such.

"Each case reported represents a serious betrayal of the trust and confidence that individuals should have in the police. It is behaviour which can never be justified or condoned."

It comes after an independent inquiry was announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel to look into the "systematic failures" that allowed Sarah Everard's killer, Wayne Couzens, to be employed as a police officer.

Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead a separate review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police in the wake of Ms Everard's murder.

Armed officer Couzens used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard before he raped and murdered her.

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On announcing an independent inquiry, the Home Secretary said the public needed answers to ensure an incident like the murder of Ms Everard never happened again.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "As the public would rightly expect, we take police integrity very seriously and have already taken steps to overhaul the police complaints and discipline systems in order to increase transparency and accountability."

The Government's independent inquiry has been welcomed by Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, who said vetting and professional standards procedures need to be scrutinised to restore public confidence.

"I think having an independent inquiry is a very good way for that to be to be dealt with to really help us provide that reassurance," he added.