Police ‘more let down than anybody’ by Sarah Everard’s murder, minister claims

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A Home Office minister has said the police feel “more let down than anybody” about the murder of Sarah Everard as it was revealed almost 2,000 police workers have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past four years.

The allegations – including of rape and offences against children – are spread across 39 forces and were made against officers, special constables and PCSOs.

A Freedom of Information request found 370 allegations of assault, nearly 100 of rape and 18 child sex offences.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard (Family handout/PA)

Channel 4’s Dispatches found 8% of the claims led to a dismissal.

But two thirds led to no action against the accused.

Meanwhile, separate figures showed hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct were made against serving police officers across Britain over five years.

Figures from 31 police forces obtained by RADAR under the Freedom of Information Act reveal at least 750 accusations were made against officers between 2016 and 2020.

It comes after an independent inquiry was announced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel to look into the “systematic failures” that allowed Sarah Everard’s killer, Wayne Couzens, to be employed as a police officer.

On Monday, Home Office Minister Damian Hinds told Times Radio: “I think everybody is shaken by this terrible case. It is also really important to take a moment once again to pay tribute to all the men and women who serve in our policing service who feel more let down than anybody by this terrible sequence of events.

Damian Hinds
Damian Hinds said the case had shaken everyone (PA)

“They put themselves in danger day after day and in protection of the rest of us and they deserve our support.

“It is actually more important even for them than for anyone else that this inquiry gets to the bottom of this.”

He added: “This case goes to the heart of that question of trust.”

Mr Hinds described the figures uncovered by Dispatches as a “shocking figure”.

He told LBC: “Yes of course it is a shocking figure and it is important that there is process to go through in those cases, and an accusation must be followed by looking into it properly and in some cases there will be full procedures.”

However, an investigation by The Times said forces often held misconduct hearings in private, anonymised the names of accused officers, and that even when officers were sacked, the public notices outlining the findings were later deleted from websites.

Police misconduct hearings
Former prime minister Theresa May (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Former prime minister Theresa May, who pushed for transparency reforms, told The Times its investigation left the impression the police were “prioritising the reputation of the institution over the delivery of justice”.

Baroness Casey of Blackstock will lead a separate review of culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police in the wake of Ms Everard’s murder.

Armed officer Couzens used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage a fake arrest so he could kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard before he raped and murdered her.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups such as Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women’s Aid, said few officers face “any meaningful consequences” for violence against women and girls.

Deputy director Denzi Ugur 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 Independent Office for Police Conduct, which oversees the police complaints system, said it was down to forces to “stamp out” any abuse of police powers.

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.

“In the context of the police service, this behaviour is a form of corruption and should be dealt with as such.

“Each case reported represents a serious betrayal of the trust and confidence that individuals should have in the police. It is behaviour which can never be justified or condoned.”

Violence against women
A woman walking after dark on Poynders Road in Clapham, south London, close to where Sarah Everard was abducted in March (Yui Mok/PA)

On announcing an independent inquiry, the Home Secretary said the public needed answers to ensure an incident like the murder of Ms Everard never happened again.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “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 in order to increase transparency and accountability.”

The Government’s independent inquiry has been welcomed by Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, who said vetting and professional standards procedures need 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.

Cops on Trial: Dispatches is on All4 and Channel 4 at 10pm on Monday October 11.

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