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Sexual abuse can be ‘defeated like terrorism’ says BTP chief as she hits out at ‘unbelievable cesspit of hate’

20 February 2024, 06:32 | Updated: 20 February 2024, 12:07

The head of the British Transport Police has said the public should do more to help “defeat” misogynistic behaviour.
The head of the British Transport Police has said the public should do more to help “defeat” misogynistic behaviour. Picture: Alamy
Fraser Knight

By Fraser Knight

The head of the British Transport Police has said the public should play more of a role in ‘defeating’ sexual abuse - in the same way they do for terrorism threats.

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Chief Constable Lucy D’orsi told LBC she was angry and saddened by the “cesspit of hate” that emerged after she announced the appointment of her new assistant chief constable Karen Findlay on Friday.

But she’s warned there’s a much wider societal issue that needs to be addressed by members of the public - including when it comes to witnessing sexual assault.

Lucy D’orsi said: “This is a societal challenge for us all that we all need to come together and say this is simply unacceptable.

“I would say have you ever been one of those people that thought this is a bit uncomfortable in a carriage – I’ll get out and get on the next carriage further down?

“I’m saying tell us about it, don’t be that person who just moves their position. I think we can solve this if we work together.

“In my old role in counter-terrorism police we used to talk about how communities defeat terrorism and I think in the rail sector passengers can help us to defeat unwanted sexual behaviour.”

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In November, the BTP warned 1 in 3 women who use the rail network are likely to be assaulted on their commute, but that less than 1 in 5 witnesses would report it.

Police forces across the country are focusing on building confidence and trust among women and girls after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

Just months later, another officer was found to be the country’s most prolific rapist in modern history.

Chief Constable D’orsi told LBC employing female officers is a big part of advocating for that trust but that the abuse being directed at those already in the job risked putting others off.

She said all police leaders should be using their platform more to call it out - after she made a rare public statement on Saturday, condemning a barrage of sexist and homophobic abuse online about the promotion of Commander Karen Findlay, from the Met, to BTP.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lucy D’orsi said.

“It was a complete cesspit of hatred in terms of homophobia and misogyny on a global stage for somebody who all we’d done was post about her success - I was just really angry.”

“I’m quite happy to say what I feel when I feel it so strongly and I think we’ve all got to be better.

“I’m in a very privileged position - I’m a chief constable of a national police force that covers England Scotland and Wales and I think sometimes you have to use your platform to make your point.

“It will be appreciated by some and not by others, but I can’t shy away from that.

“I have to speak up about it because I’m asking the public to speak up about violence against women and girls.

“It is really important – [chief constables] are role models within society. We should be and we need to use our voices to discuss the topics that are important.”

Karen Findlay, who is due to join the British Transport Police later this year is a commander at the Met and has been in charge of delivering some of the country’s biggest events - including the Queen’s funeral and King’s Coronation.

A former Scotland rugby captain, she also hit out at the abuse being directed to her, saying: “our professional experience, contribution and commitment should be the focus, NOT the vile misogynistic, homophobic vileness experienced.

“It’s not okay and nor is being silent on it.”

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