Former Met acting commissioner referred to watchdog over claims he described rape as ‘regretful sex’

Sir Stephen House.  (Metropolitan Police )
Sir Stephen House. (Metropolitan Police )

A former Metropolitan police acting commissioner is to be referred to watchdogs over claims he described the “bulk” of rape complaints as “regretful sex”.

Sir Stephen House is alleged to have made the comments to a home office adviser at a Scotland Yard meeting in January 2022.

He was speaking to Professor Bestsy Stanko while discusssing ‘Operation Soteria Bluestone’, a major review aimed at increasing the number of rape cases making it to court.

Sir Stephen, who stepped in as acting commissioner after the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick in April 2022, vehemently denies the allegation made by the professor on Channel 4 News.

He said he found the term “regretful sex” to be “abhorrent” and welcomed an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Meanwhile Current Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens told Channel 4: “Having been made aware of an allegation that the comments were made by a senior Metropolitan Police officer, we are referring the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”

In its latest report, released in December, Operation Soteria Bluestone found widespread failings in police Rape and Sexual Offence units and a culture of disbelieving victims.

Professor Stanko’s research concluded that ingrained prejudice in the police was part of the problem.

She alleges Sir Stephen made the remarks at a meeting with top officers at Scotland Yard to discuss her project’s findings.

The Professor told Channel 4: “It felt as if he [Sir Stephen] was trying to minimise what the problem was, not taking it seriously. He used terms to describe – or a term to describe – what he thought the bulk of the rape complaints were, which was the term “regretful sex”.

“The only way I understand the term regretful sex – and it was said by officers elsewhere, in the other forces that we visited and researched – it is something about the victim. Again, the victim is mistaken.

“That that faultline of forcible sex, which is rape, was not crossed because it must have been confusion. The problem was about confusion, not about the facts or the evidence that could have been collected if one was trying to investigate a rape.”

Sir Stephen House was deputy commissioner at the time and would soon become acting Commissioner.

In a statement to Channel 4 he said: “I have dedicated over four decades of public service to protecting the public from predatory offenders.

“I categorically deny using the phrase “regretful sex”. These are not words I have ever used in relation to rape or sexual assault and the reason I am so certain that I did not say this is because I simply do not believe it; I find the phrase abhorrent.

“I find this characterisation of me to be deeply upsetting, and colleagues who know me know how untrue it is.”