A deeply disturbing report released today has revealed the shocking levels of sexual exploitation by police officers in England and Wales.
The report, commissioned by Prime Minister Teresa May during her time as Home Secretary, has described the problem as a “disease” and acknowledges this is now “the most serious” form of corruption facing forces across the UK.
The main findings outlined in the report were:
- More than 300 officers, 20 PCSOs and 8 other members of staff were involved in 436 reported allegations over a two-year period to March 2016 – the equivalent of 18 allegations a month.
- All but one constabulary in the UK had a complaint against them.
- Many of the victims of exploitation were already classed as being ‘vulnerable’.
To make matters worse, less than half of the complaints (48%) have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), and there has been a disproportionately low number of dismissals compared to the number of complaints made.
Concerns were also raised that officers did not seem to have an understanding about the boundaries which should exist when dealing with “vulnerable” people and victims of crime.
The sexual exploitation problem could even be “more serious” than the numbers which have been reported so far, as admitted by HM Inspector Mike Cunningham, who led the review.
In my work at Hudgell Solicitors, I have dealt with many cases of sexual exploitation where officers have abused their power and authority.
Whilst today’s report calls into question the integrity of the police, unfortunately it only bears out what I see on a day-to-day basis. We are currently instructed on a number of legal actions against Chief Constables in similar circumstances.
As a Chief Constable, you are responsible for ensuring that this betrayal of trust doesn’t happen – and urgent steps must be taken to address attitudes and behaviour which appear to be common place. Unfortunately, there are officers who are using their position – a position of trust – for their own gratification and self-gain, which is the most serious level of corruption.
People who are coming into contact with the police are often vulnerable already. Taking advantage of that vulnerability is despicable, morally wrong and needs to be stamped out.
The solution is to stop such incidents occurring in the first place, rather than using the disciplinary route – which should be a last resort – because it often leads to more damage to the victim as the process is a long and intrusive one.
However, once a case reaches an investigation – which this report shows doesn’t happen enough – there needs to be stronger punishment for those involved. Officers are all too often avoiding dismissal and this cannot continue to happen. A slap on the wrist is not enough.
Educating officers about the standards which are acceptable, and strong deterrents are the only ways to reduce the high number of incidents which are undermining the justice system.”
If you have been a victim of sexual exploitation at the hands of a police employee, please call us in confidence on 0808 231 6055 for sympathetic, impartial and free legal advice.