26 claims of sexual assault made against Lancashire police officers in five years

More than two dozen allegations of sexual assault have been made against serving members of Lancashire Police in the past five years, according to latest figures.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 12:57 pm

A Freedom of Information request has shown that 26 claims were made against officers between 2016 and 2020.

Of those just two resulted in a dismissal or resignation, with 21 found not proven and three were still under investigation at the time of the FOI in late July this year.

The figures come just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “a massive job” to be done in restoring women’s confidence in police after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden and Chief Constable Chris Rowley are both determined to tackle abuse by police officers in Lancashire.

Responding to the data, Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden told the Lancashire Post he would be making violence against women a "strategic priority."

And Lancashire Constabulary said they too were doing all they could to prevent officers abusing their position. "We must be honest with ourselves that misogynistic attitudes and behaviours that exist in society, exist in policing too," said a spokesperson.

Figures obtained by data agency RADAR showed that of the 26 sexual assault claims made, 25 were against male officers. The sex of the other officer was unknown.

The data does not specify if the officers were on or off duty at the time the alleged incidents occurred.

The Reclaim The Streets vigil on Clapham Common after the murder of Sarah Everard.

The sex of the person making the accusation was also unknown in each case.

Responses from 33 police forces across Great Britain revealed that most claims over five years related to male officers, where their sex was recorded.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups like Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women's Aid, has complained that few officers face "any meaningful consequences" for violence against women and girls nationally.

The organisation said the murder of Ms Everard took place within a broader context of violence perpetrated by the police, adding that trust in forces from women and girls was now at an all-time low.

Sarah Everard was murdered by a serving officer of the Metropolitan Police.

Deputy director Denzi Uğur said: "We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women – especially within their own ranks.

"This means greater accountability and urgent, coordinated and strategic action to address violence against women.

"Ultimately, we need to address these widespread institutional failings before we can even begin to address women’s confidence in the police."

The data from Lancashire Constabulary was in response to a request for the number of complaints of sexual assaults against serving police officers. So complaints could relate to historic allegations.

Of the cases against officers in the force between 2016 and 2020, 22 came from the members of the public and four from colleagues.

The Prime Minister has called for a change in the culture of policing following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.

It emerged that Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 – but was still able to transfer from Kent Police to the Metropolitan force.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating both forces for their handling of Couzens.

The body holds an oversight of the entire police complaints system and investigates the most serious police misconduct matters.

A spokesperson said: "The abuse of police powers for purposes of sexual exploitation, or violence, has a devastating impact on victims, and a serious impact on the public’s confidence in individual officers and the service in general.

The Lancashire Police spokesperson said: "We take all allegations seriously and we must be honest with ourselves that misogynistic attitudes and behaviours that exist in society, exist in policing too. That matters so much because of the powers we hold and because our legitimacy is built on public confidence.

"Across policing we need to act collectively to ensure that we do all that we can to prevent police officers abusing their position and we rebuild trust that has been damaged.

"There are critical issues for the whole of policing that need to be examined and acted on - from vetting to professional standards, to how predatory or misogynistic behaviour is challenged."

Commissioner Snowden said: "The police hold a position of power and the public rightly expect the highest standards of integrity and conduct, which I regularly scrutinise with the Chief Constable.

"All sexual crime has a devastating impact on victims and abuse of power for sexual purpose also hugely impacts public confidence. Such behaviour must be challenged and stamped out, within policing and society.

"Tackling violence against women will be a strategic priority in my police and crime plan and something I will continue to invest in to protect and keep women safe."