Making Police Accountable for failing victims of sexual crime.
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Below is an account of my journey for justice. I have encountered some appalling treatment and institutional failings which have at times seemed unbearable.
I want to instigate real learning and change and at the heart of achieving that I must make people accountable. Not just individuals officers but also the management above.
There has been a tide of change in victims finding their voice and feeling able to come forward. What meets them on the other side needs to reflect this change and their needs.
Help me speak up and start a conversation which leads to people listening, learning and changing.
I am a victim of a sexual crime and in an attempt to gain some justice and closure I reported it to my local police. What then ensued has been a almost three year journey I had not anticipated.
West Mercia Police took my initial statement but early on I identified a officer from Gloucestershire Police who I had asked for help and did nothing. So suddenly it became a conduct matter and my initial complaint became sidelined. The Chief Inspector who was at the time head of their Professional Standards Department within Gloucestershire Police was tasked with my case dismissive and unhelpful in his approach. A defining moment came when he made this comment......
He was trying to illustrate the levels of sanctions he could use. At the top failure to do your job in a public office. At the bottom a management meeting which effectively is a slap on the wrist and words of advice. He went on to give this example : It's a bit like police officers visiting prostitutes, we don't encourage it but they are entitled to a private life so we would just offer words of advice. I was devastated, this was from the person who had read my statement which contained horrific details, which now he was comparing to prostitutes. All my faith and trust in that moment was gone. I withdrew my complaint that day, writing to Suzette Davenport Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police to make her aware of my reasons. The investigation continued and in the course of interview the officer who had protected the perpetrator lied. He acknowledge I had told him but lied about what happened next. It became clear he was protected. I was sure I could provide evidence to support he had lied so did just that. 2 other officers from the same force were prepared to give evidence in my favour but they refused to interview them. Still they dismissed my complaint protected him. Eventually they found in his favour.
But things just didn't add up and I referred the matter to the IPCC initially it was upheld and an investigation ensued. When they contacted Gloucestershire PSD department initially the Chief Inspector was on leave and the investigation could not be found. His colleagues had no knowledge of it's existence. When he returned he filed paperwork retrospectively. Eventually the IPCC did not upheld the complaint. I was then told by them if he has lied and you can prove it get your own evidence, interview people yourself and comeback with everything.
At this point I met a Chief Inspector from West Mercia Police who offered to help. He looked at all that had happened and challenged the other force. I asked for help from my local MP and she added to the growing concern. As it now appeared there was a conflict of interest it was passed to another force, Wiltshire Police.
Within that investigation it was decided that what was needed was an Independent Inquiry headed by the IPCC. Also to go back and look at the initial complaint which had never been investigated and was overshadowed by the issues within Gloucestershire Police.
So the two began.
Within the course of West Mercia's investigation other victims were identified and there was a reluctance to interview them for fear of re traumatising them. After discussion between myself and the Chief Inspector leading the team and I illustrated the benefits I saw it was agreed this would be done in sensitive, gentle manner using trained professionals in this field to ensure the safety and well being of the other victims.
Sadly this did not happen. Someone from their team deemed it appropriate to phone as they lived a distance away and discuss their experiences over the phone. As the conversation went on they also identified me. Appalling for both them and me. Anonymity for life should protect victims of sexual offences.
This officer said nothing, didn't report it either to their team or the team who had been tasked with my protection. I found out after they looked for me on Facebook and their family member made contact. I was devastated not only had I been identified but that was also being shared. No-one has been made accountable. I have been through their complaints procedure and West Mercia maintain it is okay to identify myself as victim, they just can't publish it. They did however upheld they should have told their protection team. I find this confusing, if you did nothing wrong why tell them?
The lead Chief Inspector had no knowledge until I contacted him and then took days to investigate. Then a reply yes that had happened but the excuse was his officer had felt backed into a corner on the telephone so identified me. The fallout was immense and both myself and family were put in danger whilst under their protection. Not surprisingly both victims did not want to give further evidence. Their initial statements were to be used.
The IPCC investigation is ongoing it has lead to a ACC on misconduct charges ( allowed to retire in process ) Chief Inspector on Gross Misconduct charges ( suspended the allowed to retire ) and Chief Inspector on Gross misconduct still in post and promoted to Superintendent in process. Because of the nature of the initial complaint their identity and the existence of the investigation have been hid throughout.
West Mercia were given this investigation by the IPCC in an attempt to restore my faith in the police and ensure the initial complaint was investigated. After my being identified the case was promptly closed.
West Mercia you failed me. You failed to protect me at a time when you were on notice for all the failings within Gloucestershire. You failed the other victims too. It was highly inappropriate to contact them in that way. You should have done that face to face using your specifically trained officers to gain their trust and offer support.
The Sexual Abuse Inquiry is looking at how organisations have failed victims. In the media it is being portrayed as problems in the deep recesses of our nations past. As a victim who has been going through this process in the last almost three years I can tell you they still exist. One of the officers at the very heart of Gloucestershire Police failings was a head Mason, did this effect the handling? Only time will tell when the IPCC reach their conclusion.
Change will only come with people speaking up. Making people accountable. Challenging their actions. So please help me start.....
- Independent Police Complaints Commission
- Police and Crime Commissioner West Mercia and Gloucestershire Police
Making Police Accountable for failing victims of sexual crime.
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