Watchdog probes senior police officer over alleged ‘regretful sex’ rape comments

A police watchdog is investigating alleged comments made by a senior officer about the “bulk” of rape complaints being “regretful sex”.

Sir Stephen House denies making the comments to a Home Office adviser at a Scotland Yard meeting in January 2022 – when he was Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is looking into the accusation, which was raised earlier this month.

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “The allegation that these comments were made by a very senior police officer is of significant public concern, which may impact on public confidence in policing and so it is important that they are subject to an independent investigation.”

Sir Stephen House comments
Sir Stephen House visited a police station in south-east London with then prime minister Boris Johnson in August 2022 (PA)

Sir Stephen and the Met have been informed of the decision to investigate.

Professor Betsy Stanko, an adviser appointed by the Home Office to conduct Operation Soteria – a report on the way the police responds to rape cases, told Channel 4 News that Sir Stephen made the comments at a meeting with top officers.

She said: “It felt as if he 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’.”

Met Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens, referring the matter to the IPOC earlier this month, said: “Rape is a horrific offence that has a devastating and lasting impact. The comments included in the Operation Soteria Bluestone report are wholly unacceptable.

“We recognise that they risk further undermining the confidence of victims to come forward and that is deeply regrettable.”

Findings from Operation Soteria declared some officers “displayed a culture of disbelieving victims”.

In a statement to Channel 4 News earlier this month, Sir Stephen, a former chief constable of Police Scotland, 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.”