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Officers who are domestic abusers 'protected', CWJ claims


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The Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) has submitted a super-complaint to the HMIC over claims in a report published today that there is a failure to properly investigate officers who commit domestic abuse.


Date - 9th March 2020
By - Chloe Livadeas

The CWJ has submitted a super-complaint to HMICFRS, claiming officers who are perpetrators of domestic abuse are protected from being brought to justice.

The CWJ’s report, published today (Monday 9 March), identifies a “culture of loyalty” towards accused officers and the “potential for improper manipulation and abuse of systems in the suspect’s favour”. It includes 19 case studies of individual women’s experiences which span 15 forces. The CWJ were contacted by a further 27 women, 46 in total.

Its findings refers to both officers and police staff.

The super-complaints system allows certain organisations to flag issues when they evidence that a feature of policing “appears to be significantly harming the interests of the public”.

The report publishes data from Freedom of Information requests made by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to all forces in England and Wales on numbers of reports of police perpetrators of domestic abuse and their outcomes from April 2015 to April 2018.

These reveal there were 19 convictions for 493 reports against officers.

This shows a conviction rate of 3.9 per cent, which is two-thirds of that for the general population. Responses where misconduct outcomes were given show that 7.5 per cent of cases were referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). Of the total concluded cases, in 76.3 per cent there was a finding of no case to answer or no sanction, and some sanction was applied in 16.8 per cent of cases.

The report states: “The data obtained was limited for a variety of reasons and more accurate data should be obtained and analysed.”

Forces included in the complaint are Cambridgeshire, Devon and Cornwall, Greater Manchester Police, Gwent, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Merseyside, Wiltshire, Northumbria, Police Scotland, Surrey, Sussex, West Midlands and the Metropolitan Police.

The CWJ have linked the results to an identified “locker-room culture” within the police that “condones and trivialises violence against women”. It cites levels of sexual harassment reported by police employees, high number of reports of sexual assault by officers who faces no sanction and the scandal of undercover officers having “deceitful” sexual relationships.

HMICFRS, alongside the IOPC and the College of Policing, will now consider whether the submission from CWJ meets the requirements for a super-complaint and if so, will launch an investigation into the matter.

Common themes identified in the reports from women include failures in investigation, improper manipulation of police processes, accused officers’ personal links with others in the force, workplace victimisation of women who are officers and accused officers using their police knowledge, status and powers.

One woman describes her ex-partner telling her: “I’m a police officer, no one’s going to believe you” and another victim being told “who’s going to believe you, there are lots of us”.

A strong theme in the accounts was the fact that officers investigating abuse allegations often knew the alleged perpetrator, sometimes for years, through work and socially. The report states how the culture of the ‘police family’ undermined the victim’s trust in proceedings, and that personal matters were not kept confidential and “information and rumours spread easily within a force”.

The CWJ is calling for victims to be able to report their claims to the IOPC rather than the force itself and that neighbouring forces investigating such claims "should be the norm".

The report also reads: “Reports by domestic abuse professionals also raise concerns about officers believed to be perpetrators of abuse continuing to work in public protection roles which involve dealing with vulnerable victims of domestic and sexual abuse.” It is calling for officers who face allegations to be restricted from working with such vulnerable victims.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Domestic abuse is a devastating crime. We are committed to protecting vulnerable people and bringing perpetrators to justice and that is why last week saw the introduction of our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill before Parliament.

“The majority of police officers act with honesty and integrity and we expect the highest standards of professionalism from every officer.”

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I read this piece and have to say I'm not sure it has a lot of weight to it. It seems to be based on some old statistics and what victims were told by abusers, rather than anything concrete. But maybe I'm wrong. 

My experience, which is sadly more than I would like in this area as that allegations are processed robustly, with reports restricted and handled by other teams. Officers have been and are still arrested in duty and dealt with like any other. 

But, I have no objections to other forces being used. If it makes people more confident then why not. If the investigations are fair, then why not. 

I can't say how we can stop officers using their police knowledge in their own defence, it's what we are trained in. 

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I think that this asks questions of the motives of the Centre for Women's Justice.  There is no place for domestic violence committed by men or by women, and it does happen.  During my service I knew, fairly intimately, of 5 cases of domestic violence by Police Officers. All were dealt with correctly with 4 officers being convicted in Court of Domestic Violence (Assaults).  The 5th one was investigated and was found to be, and admitted to be, a false accusation.

The Police Service is no different, in many ways, to society as a whole. We/you are not immune from being human beings with both strengths and failings. 

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