Charity claims ‘systemic failures’ sees domestic abusers who work for police being ‘protected’

Police officers carrying out domestic abuse are being “protected and not brought to justice”, campaigners have claimed.

The legal charity the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) has made a super-complaint against 15 police forces, citing the cases of 19 women who have alleged abuse, violence, stalking and rape.

It claims there are “systemic failures” experienced by women reporting domestic abuse carried out by serving police officers and staff.

The charity is calling for an overhaul of how such allegations are investigated which would allow victims to make their complaints directly to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) and see neighbouring forces investigate the complaint, rather than those where the suspect works.

The complaint will be investigated by watchdog the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The document submitted by the charity said: “A central concern for this super-complaint is that police abusers are being protected and not brought to justice as a result of their position as officers.

“Without doubt there are cases that are dealt with properly, but we conclude that there is such a risk of policing systems being abused, that this should be reflected in special arrangements for such cases.”

Victims feel a “deep lack of confidence in the criminal justice system” because their abusers work for bodies designed to protect them, the complaint said, adding: “Their unique position justifies new procedures to ensure that women in this position have greater protections, better outcomes, and that justice is seen to be done.”

The charity cited several examples of “failures in investigation”, including some where no criminal charges were brought despite victims claiming to have supplied evidence.

It also raised concerns about disciplinary proceedings not taking place in some cases.

“Improper responses” to reports included a woman reporting a rape being told by officers she gave the impression she was a “vengeful wife” which made her a “pest to police”, while another officer looking into a report that her husband had been stealing from her suggested the pair “sit down together and sort it out”.

The complaint added: “In some cases where the women are police officers, the impact of reporting an ex-partner has gone beyond inadequate arrangements, to open hostility from other officers, bullying and victimisation.”

The “criss-cross of personal connections” in forces “undermines the trust of victims”, it said.

Nogah Ofer, a solicitor at the charity, said: “We are concerned about a “locker-room culture” that trivialises violence against women, where loyalty towards fellow officers and concern about impact on their careers may be getting in the way of justice for women who report abuse.”

According to data obtained by the charity under freedom of information laws, there were 19 convictions from 493 reports against police offices, a rate of 3.9% compared to 6.2% in the general population.

There were 666 reports of domestic abuse and other related incidents in three years across 30 police forces in England and Wales where officers and staff were the suspects, the figures also suggested.

The 15 forces included in the complaint are: Cambridgeshire; Devon and Cornwall; Greater Manchester; Gwent; Hampshire; Hertfordshire; Leicestershire; Merseyside; Metropolitan Police; Northumbria; Police Scotland; Surrey; Sussex; West Midlands and Wiltshire.

Since 2018, the super-complaint system has allowed certain organisations to raise concerns on behalf of the public about “harmful patterns or trends in policing”.

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