Today is another dark day for victims and the wider public, to learn that yet another serving Metropolitan Police officer has had the freedom to use his power to commit serious violence against women. I am deeply horrified at the scale and depravity of the offences committed by David Carrick.
There has been an abject failure on the part of the Metropolitan Police – those who we expect to keep us safe – to identify this prolific offender within their own ranks over the span of two decades, and this will undoubtedly impact the confidence of victims, especially of women, reporting to the police.
In pleading guilty, I am thankful that so many victims have at least been spared the ordeal of a trial, and I want to thank them for their immense bravery and courage in coming forward. We should never underestimate how difficult it is for a rape victim to report what happened. This is even harder when the offender is in a position of power which can be abused to silence victims, and is protected by a system that is not fit for purpose.
Further exacerbating this are the rape myths which remain prevalent in our society and throughout our criminal justice system, the most common among which is that “women lie” and false accusations are rife. This is simply not true, and has been proven time and time again by justice agencies, with CPS data showing that over a 17-month period there were only 35 prosecutions for making false allegations, versus over 5,600 for rape.
There is a huge drive within the police and CPS to improve their response to rape victims, by focusing on the suspect and not the victim. It is clear that this work has a long way to go before we see positive improvement. If the public truly understood the traumatic ordeal victims go through and the intense scrutiny they are placed under in their years-long wait for justice, they would realise the immense courage it takes to report. A case not proceeding does not mean the allegation was false.
I am appalled to also learn that more than 1,000 currently serving Metropolitan Police officers and staff have previously been subject to serious allegations, and while I welcome the Metropolitan Police’s decision to review all of these, there is no room to diminish or overlook victims’ experiences.
The police must learn to identify and join up patterns of behaviour that demonstrate the real risk to victims, and to take swift action to protect them. This is where the Metropolitan Police urgently needs training and support from experts in the voluntary sector to develop their expertise in identifying red-flag behaviours and tackling male violence against women and girls.
The Baroness Casey review has already shone a light on the issues with sexual misconduct proceedings, with more than 70 per cent being discontinued or having no case to answer. I hear directly from victims who have complained to the police about misconduct and serious criminal offences, but have been victim-blamed, or had their allegations minimised or dismissed.
This shows an urgent need for reform and more robust regulation, as it is clear the Metropolitan Police are unable to impartially assess, investigate, and remove officers who fail victims and the wider public.
This case should also highlight to us why we should never allow rape suspects anonymity, and why the fair and transparent reporting of criminal cases is important. In this case and so many others, it begins with one victim taking that brave step to report what happened, which gives others the strength to also come forward. Together, these women have achieved justice for themselves and for one another.
Carrick’s offending – along with the clear prevalence of sexual offenders within the Met’s ranks – remind us of the significant cultural issues within the force; a culture which has attracted these people, allowed them to progress professionally, and provided them with power over vulnerable members of the public.
While much positive work is under way to tackle violence against women and girls, it is difficult for us to ask women to trust the police when so many serving officers are subject to serious complaints.
I know the new commissioner is committed to reforming the force to identify and remove officers like this, but the public need urgent reassurance that it is safe for women to report. I believe the scale of such offending, alongside the continued revelations of misconduct, warrants an independent inquiry, and it is vital that the home secretary now extends the Angiolini Inquiry to cover Carrick’s offending.
I will continue to push for an independent Victim Care Hub, which will help the Metropolitan Police to drastically improve their service to victims. Only through radical change and independent oversight can this be achieved, and the trust and confidence of the public be restored.
Claire Waxman OBE is London’s first victims’ commissioner