A report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found that more than 300 police officers have been accused of abusing their authority for sexual gain in the past two years.
The findings are particularly shocking when one considers the heightened awareness of sexual abuse amongst police forces, who have been asked in recent years to treat reports of abuse from the public as a top priority.
Serious form of corruption
In total, there had been 436 reported allegations of abuse of authority for sexual gain across police forces around England and Wales.
Only one constabulary across England and Wales did not receive any accusations, showing that the issue is not localised and affects the force as a whole.
It appears that there is a lack of consistency amongst how different constabularies handle allegations of sexual exploitation, which has been described as the “most serious” form of corruption facing police by HMIC.
Of the 436 accusations, less than half were reported to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and of the 334 officers, PCSOs, and police staff involved in allegations only 40 have been dismissed for abuse of authority for sexual gain the last two years.
The report also showed that some officers did not understand the acceptable boundaries when they meet vulnerable people, which results in a heightened risk of sexual exploitation.
There are also institutional errors that are causing abuse of authority for sexual gain to go undetected, as almost half of police constabularies are unable to audit or monitor IT usage, meaning that officers can use databases to identify vulnerable victims without being caught.
Betrayal of trust
The report is set in a backdrop of a better understanding of sexual abuse amongst police forces, which have been placing additional emphasis on investigating abuse allegations since the revelations of Jimmy Savile’s crimes.
Despite the heightened focus on abuse, 40% of accusations involved victims of crime, highlighting a distinct lack of understanding amongst officers about their inappropriate behaviour.
Arrested suspects and people with drug or alcohol problems were also thought to be amongst those allegedly exploited, which underlines that betrayal of trust by officers and staff abusing their authority for sexual gain.
The report has brought up previous instances of police officers convicted for sexual crimes, including a Metropolitan Police Constable who was jailed for four years for sexually abusing a 15-year-old rape victim.
Underlining the betrayal of trust by officers who commit these sexual crimes, Peter Garsden – Head of Simpson Millar’s Abuse Law department – said:
“This report makes for distressing reading, especially when one considers the fact that the police are currently working with a heightened awareness of sexual abuse given their recent focus on investigating these types of crimes.”
“Many abuse cases involve a position of authority, with abusers taking advantage of their position of trust and power to manipulate and control their victims. However, this characteristic is usually associated with forms of institutional abuse, which makes it all the more concerning that these allegations are being associated with the very police forces that we trust to investigate these sorts of actions.”
“The police have responded to the report by admitting that attitudes and behaviours of officers have to change, so we should see these figures fall in future.”
“Of course, that does not offer much consolation for victims who have suffered abuse from the very people that they trust to protect them and we should bear the psychological effect of sexual exploitation in mind when discussing this shocking report.”