Rape may as well be legal in London, Met Police officer said
The detection rate for rape is now so low in London that “you may as well say it is legal”, one Met officer told a landmark review.
The damning report by the crossbench peer Baroness Casey found examples of bad practice in the way sexual cases were handled including freezers holding vital forensic evidence being too crammed to close and even breaking down.
A lunchbox was found in the same fridge that rape samples were being kept in which would have contaminated the evidence, the review was told.
The independent review into the force's culture and standards was launched following the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, Wayne Couzens.
One unnamed officer, who worked in the Met’s Sapphire sex offences unit, told the review that she had “lost count” of the number of times crucial evidence in rape cases had been lost.
She said the unit’s freezers, which held and preserved evidence obtained from victims and survivors of sexual violence including swabs, blood, urine and underwear, would be so full it would take three officers to close them.
She said all the refrigerators used for rape kits were in bad shape and evidence was often ruined.
In the heatwave in 2022, she said one of the freezers had broken down and all of the evidence had to be destroyed because it could no longer be used.
She said a general email had been sent round to this effect and that it meant that all those cases of alleged rape would be dropped.
Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said the Met had asked the Casey review team for more information on the incident so they could look into it further.
Officer sexually assaulted by colleague
Another officer told the review: “If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it's legal in London. It's kind of reflective of how we treat and view our female colleagues.”
The report also highlighted examples of sexism and misogyny in the Met, with one officer describing how she had been sexually assaulted by a senior male colleague on numerous occasions.
She said the man would frequently touch her inappropriately while she was getting changed in the communal locker room.
The review stated: “On one occasion he forcibly started to undress her while they were on duty together, and only stopped when a member of the public drove past. On another occasion, the officer masturbated in front of her in the communal changing room.”
The victim, who was married, was dissuaded from making a criminal complaint but when she reported him for misconduct the case was dropped.
Treated like a troublemaker
She said after the case was dismissed she had been labelled a liar and troublemaker and had been ostracised by some of her colleagues.
She told the review team that the Met felt like a "boys' club".
“It would have probably been better to suffer in silence, but I couldn’t do that. He got away with everything, I was made to look like the liar,” she said.
The review also heard from junior officers who had been forced to endure humiliating initiation tests which included being urinated on.
Other incidents that were dismissed as "pranks and banter", included bags of urine being thrown at cars, male officers flicking each other's genitals and sex toys being placed in coffee cups.
Responding to the report, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: "I accept her diagnosis about the racism, misogyny and homophobia in the organisation."
Although he said he would not use the term "institutional" to describe the failings, he added: "To be part of an organisation that has let individuals down so badly is deeply upsetting... Because we have to right this wrong. We have to deal with these cultural problems. And the vast majority of my colleagues are up for this."