Multiple rape cases dropped by Met Police after evidence was lost because of faulty freezers, report finds

21 March 2023, 00:01 | Updated: 21 March 2023, 00:12

Scotland Yard
Multiple rape cases in London had to be dropped last year because of faulty freezers. Picture: Getty
Fraser Knight.

By Fraser Knight.

Multiple rape cases in London had to be dropped last year because of faulty freezers, where evidence is stored, according to a damning review into the Metropolitan Police.

Baroness Louise Casey’s report has found evidence of institutional racism, homophobia and sexism in the force - and she’s described the failures around storing samples from rape victims as being ‘symbolic’ of how women and girls have fallen down the force’s list of priorities in recent years.

One officer, who the review team has called G to protect her identity, revealed: “The unit’s freezers, which held and preserved evidence obtained from victims and survivors of sexual violence including swabs, blood, urine and underwear, would be so full it would take three officers to close them: one person to push the door closed, one person to hold it shut, and one to secure the lock.

“All the fridges used for rape kits were in bad shape, packed and ruining evidence. In the heatwave in 2022, one freezer broke down and all of the evidence had to be destroyed because it could no longer be used. A general email had been sent round to this effect and that it meant that all those cases of alleged rape would be dropped.”

The report also revealed G had said she had “lost count” of the number of times she had asked a colleague where the necessary evidence was before being told that it had been lost.

General view of New Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard was slammed by Dame Lynne Owens after faulty freezers were found to have caused rape cases to be dropped due to lost evidence. Picture: Getty

Read more: Met Police is 'institutionally racist, sexist and homophobic - and must reform or face break-up', scathing report finds

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During a briefing with reporters, Baroness Casey revealed her frustration at the fact, while saying her team had also found a lunchbox inside a fridge which contained rape kits.

It means the evidence stored there could’ve been ruined and declared inadmissible in court.

She said: “This is symbolic of an organisation that has lost its way. This is an organisation that speaks about tackling violence against women and girls as one of its top priorities but those words ring hollow when actually their fridges and freezers are dysfunctioning, crammed full and samples and rape kits are being spoiled.”

When asked by LBC, the Casey review team said it did not have a number of alleged rape cases which had to be dropped after the freezer broke during the spell of hot weather in Summer 2022.

Dame Lynne Owens
Dame Lynne Owens admitted she was unaware of the incident involving spoiled rape kits. Picture: Getty

Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Lynne Owens, also admitted she was unaware of the incident when asked about it during a question and answer session ahead of the review’s publication.

She said: “Officers and staff have spoken to me with absolute passion about how they don’t always feel able to give the service to victims that they want to because of the volumes of work that they hold.

“I personally haven’t seen the fridge described by Louise Casey, but now that I know about it, we have to understand it and we have to make sure our officers and staff have the capabilities to respond to the challenges they’re faced with.

“Equally, we have got to do the best we can to protect the samples that are going to be used in court and that has to be a really strong focus for us.”

Dame Lynne Owens said it was among a number of testimonies from officers and staff included in the report that the Met Police had asked Baroness Casey to share more details about, for them to look into the claims.

The Met insists tackling violence against women and girls is among its greatest priorities, with the leadership team saying it has already started implementing changes from its recently announced Turnaround Plan.

Dame Lynne said among other things, that meant fully equipping frontline staff to succeed in dealing with their workloads.