Revealed: Sexual offences claims against Thames Valley police officers and staff

'We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women – especially within their own ranks,' says women's charity

Monday, 11th October 2021, 2:34 pm
Updated Monday, 11th October 2021, 2:36 pm

More than 90 allegations of sexual offences were made against serving police officers and staff in Thames Valley over five years, figures reveal.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is “a massive job” to be done in restoring women’s confidence in police after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

Figures obtained by RADAR under the Freedom of Information Act show 91 sexual offences claims were made against Thames Valley Police officers and staff between 2016-17 and 2020-21.

91 sexual offences claims were made against Thames Valley Police officers and staff between 2016-17 and 2020-21

They related to 99 officers and staff members, 85 of whom were male. In eight cases, the gender was recorded as unknown and in six the officer was female. An officer or staff member could be involved in more than one case.

Of the allegations, 11 led to dismissals, nine to management action and five resulted in a written warning. In four, the officer or staff member would have been dismissed and another was upheld.

Three were resolved internally and one led to "reflective practise".

Investigations into a further 13 were still ongoing at the time of the FOI response on June 17.

Meanwhile, 23 saw no further action, five had a result of “no case to answer” and nine were not upheld.

In two the allegation was not proven and in another it was deemed that “acceptable service” had been provided by the officer.

Two were withdrawn or de-recorded, and two resulted in disapplication, which means they may no longer be dealt with under complaints legislation.

The data does not specify if the officers were on or off duty at the time the alleged incidents occurred.

The sex of the person making the accusation was also unknown in each case.

Responses from 33 police forces across Great Britain revealed that most claims over five years related to male officers, where their sex was recorded.

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

The organisation said the murder of Sarah Everard took place within a broader context of violence perpetrated by the police, adding that trust in forces from women and girls was now at an all-time low.

Deputy director Denzi Uğur said: "We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women – especially within their own ranks.

"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."

The data from Thames Valley Police was in response to a request for the number of complaints of sexual assaults against serving police officers.

It covered public complaints and internal conduct matters, which include those raised by members of the police against their colleagues.

Complaints could relate to historic allegations.

Of the cases against officers and staff in the force between 2016-17 and 2020-21, 36 came from the members of the public and 55 from colleagues.

The Prime Minister has called for a change in the culture of policing following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.

It emerged that Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 – but was still able to transfer from Kent Police to the Metropolitan force.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating both forces for their handling of Couzens.

The body holds an oversight of the entire police complaints system and investigates the most serious police misconduct matters.

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."

Home Secretary Priti Patel this week launched an independent inquiry into the "systematic failures" by police following the murder of Ms Everard.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary is determined to do everything in her power to deliver improvements within policing and across the criminal justice system.

“The inquiry will look into wider issues across policing – including vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

“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."

The inquiry has been welcomed by the National Police Chief's Council chairman, Martin Hewitt, who said vetting and professional standards procedures needed 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.