And this is where the systemic problems which plague them on every count come once again to light. We’ve seen in the last few weeks how the institution has remained unable to tackle the racism and violence in its ranks. Don’t forget mysoginy:
Officers are told all allegations of rape should be investigated, unless there is strong evidence the claim is false. But this policy was ignored in six of the Met’s boroughs. One source said: “The object could have been a massaging of the figures or a misinterpretation of policy. There is some evidence of trying to keep the figures down.”
The most common type of case the practice occurred in was one where a woman went to the police fearing she may have been raped, but was unable to remember what had happened. This can be a common feature where an attacker has used drugs to overpower a victim or when alcohol is involved.
Officers failed to record the allegations as an offence that needed to be investigated, but instead listed them as a CRI, which does not appear on the official crime statistics.
A source said: “When you are uncertain of what has happened you are supposed to record that as an allegation of crime. You believe the victim, it should be recorded as a rape, unless there is substantial grounds to believe otherwise.”
Some of the cases have now been properly recorded and investigated and detectives believe the women were attacked.
The source said failing to record the allegations as crimes was so serious because the training given to officers was that they should be highly suspicious when someone cannot remember what happened, as it might be drug related.
And this is where the problem comes immediately into focus. The training they get is sound. The policies they have are sound. Yet the outcomes are discriminatory. I imagine if there were an easy answer to this it would already have been implemented, but let’s look at some of the issues which get in the way:
Former senior Met officer Brian Paddick, who once headed a Scotland Yard project to improve the number of convictions for rape, said: “It is shocking this has happened for such a serious offence. It could be a reflection of the pressure the police are under from the Home Office to improve the clear-up rate and reduce reported crime.
He added: “There is not the political will in government and the Home Office to put resources into place, which the offence requires, to bring people to justice.”
In the [John] Worboys case, 14 women complained that they’d been assaulted or had an unsettling experience in a black cab since 2002, but police failed to spot a pattern even though the cabbie used very similar methods on his victims. They actually arrested him in the summer of 2007, but he was released after detectives believed his story rather than that of his victim. Worboys went on to attack another 29 women before he was finally arrested and charged in February last year, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun an inquiry into why the Metropolitan Police let him go in 2007.
The report on the [Kirk Reid] case contained testimony from senior members of the specialised sex crime investigative Sapphire unit in Southwark which described a department in crisis because management – who were concerned with hitting national targets – considered car crime a higher priority than rape and sex offences.
So we have the largest police force in the country staffed in significant numbers by men whose attitudes lead them to believe the offender rather than the victim. We have targets set by local managers for crimes of much lesser severity, and political demands from the Home Office to get reported crime figures down, whatever the cost. The damning indictment though comes from Brian Paddick, who at the end of the day says the Home Office simply doesn’t care enough to do what’s necessary to reform the Met in a way which brings rapists to justice. So it doesn’t matter how well trained they are, it doesn’t matter that they have some progressive policies – if the attitudes and practices within the institution aren’t radically changed then the force will keep failing women (and for that matter gay people and ethnic minorities, even in their own ranks).
Martin Kettle has a point – not only is the current Home Secretary Jacqui Smith incredibly weak, thus making her unable to focus on the important institutional reforms (if she were even interested, which I personally doubt) the Met needs, but the continuing feuding between London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Home Office for political control over the force is becoming a liability to its effectiveness in any regard. At the very least that has to stop, because the fallout is making the Met more of a basket case than it ever was. Somehow the police must be depoliticised, and start focusing solely on helping people rather than dismissing, controlling or (last week) hitting them.