Met Police: ‘Women don’t feel safe approached by a policeman...because we’re not safe,’ say campaigners

Following the conviction of David Carrick, campaigners have spoken of the need for reform at the Met Police.
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A “complete change of priorities” is needed at the Met Police following the conviction of David Carrick, say campaigners.

On Monday the police officer David Carrick pleaded guilty to six sexual offences, having previously admitted a further 43, revealing a campaign of rape and abuse spanning nearly 20 years. Further reports have been received by police.

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The Met has promised real reform and is reviewing hundreds of complaints, but many asked why this has not been tackled before - and why people should believe it is happening now.

‘Don’t feel safe’

Lisa Longstaff, from Women Against Rape, based in Kentish Town, said: “Women, and people of colour in particular, don’t feel safe approached by a policeman, or just seeing a policeman. We don’t feel safe reporting either, whatever has happened to us, because we’re not safe.

“What has come out in the last few days about David Carrick pleading guilty to 49 crimes is another really bad reflection of the already-damaged reputation of the Metropolitan Police.

“We’ve been campaigning for many decades to get justice and to get the police held to account, and for officers who break the law, particularly those who abuse their powers for sexual purposes. They have to be held to account. They should really be prosecuted criminally, and they should be sacked from the force.”

Met Police needs ‘change of priorities’

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Sara Callaway, from Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, said: “When we hear about this latest case, where a policeman repeatedly was reported for serious crimes - rape, domestic violence - and was allowed to stay in place - we need a complete change of priorities.”

Sara CallawaySara Callaway
Sara Callaway

Wayne Couzens

Carrick served with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command - the same unit as Wayne Couzens who raped and murdered Sarah Everard in 2021.

Ms Longstaff said: “It was clear that officers like Wayne Couzens, and again now like David Carrick, have been known by the police but instead of them being dealt with, they have actually been given jobs, given a gun - they’ve been given uniforms and power over the public, which they should never have been given. And they are taking full advantage of that.”

Rape conviction rate

Ms Longstaff criticised the conviction rate for rape, with only 1% of reported cases across the country resulting in a successful prosecution, according to figures published last year.

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“What message is that sending to violent men?” she said. “What message is it sending to violent men within the police force?”

On Thursday the Crown Prosecution Service published figures suggesting a conviction rate of just over 2% for the three-month period from July to September 2022.

Max Hill KC, director of public prosecutions, said: “The CPS has been on a significant journey in the way we approach rape, focusing on working in partnership with the police to make lasting changes that are making a difference.

“We know there is still more to do and are working hard to ensure the lessons we’ve learned around joint working and communication with police at an earlier stage, are applied when approaching other cases including those involving domestic abuse.

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“Victims and defendants alike deserve timely access to justice, and the backlogs in our courts are a source of profound concern. We are working with our partners across the criminal justice system to address the challenges we all face following the pandemic, pressure on the courts and recent industrial action.”

Sir Mark Rowley

Following Carrick’s conviction, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said in a statement: "This man abused women in the most disgusting manner. It is sickening. We've let women and girls down and indeed we've let Londoners down. The women who suffered and survived this violence have been unimaginably brave and courageous in coming forward. And I do understand also that this will lead to some women across London questioning whether they can trust the Met to keep them safe.

"We have failed. And I'm sorry. He should not have been a police officer. We haven't applied the same sense of ruthlessness to guarding our own integrity that we routinely apply to confronting criminals.”

He said the force failed “in two respects”.

"We failed as investigators where we should have been more intrusive and joined the dots on this repeated misogyny over a couple of decades,” he said.

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"And as leaders, our mindset should have been more determined to root out such a misogynist.

"These failures are horrific examples of the systemic failures that concern me and were highlighted by Baroness Casey in her recent review. I do know an apology doesn't go far enough, but I do think it's important to acknowledge our failings and for me to say I'm sorry.

"I apologise to all of David Carrick's victims. And I also want to say sorry to all of the women across London who feel we've let them down.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark RowleyMetropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

He said he has “promised action” since he took up the post four months ago, and that “the Met will become ruthless at rooting out those who corrupt our integrity”.

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“That's because our integrity is our foundation,” he said. "We haven't guarded this as ferociously as we must and we will do. In the four months to date, we've launched a new anti-corruption and abuse command, putting 30% more officers into fighting corruption. And we've done public appeals. We've raised 250 fresh lines of inquiry, and we're doing more proactive work against problematic officers than ever before. I've also brought in new leadership to lead this work, to reform our integrity.

"At the end of March, I plan to write to the home secretary and the mayor in an open public letter. And by then, we will also have finished reviewing all of our people, having checked their details against all the police, national intelligence data in the police national database.

"We'll have begun a full review of our national vetting process, we'll have completed Operation Onyx, which is our review of the officers and staff whom we have concerning domestic or sexual incident reports against.

"And we'll also have tested new legal routes to dismiss those who fail vetting.

"We will reform at speed. I promise that to Londoners."