A refused FOI request to understand the scale of inappropriate behaviour by police officers makes it harder to hold the Met to account, reports Sian Norris
The Metropolitan Police (the Met) is unable to confirm how many of its officers have faced disciplinary action for inappropriate sexual contact or inappropriate sexual relationships, Byline Times can reveal.
The gap in accessible data raises questions about transparency and accountability at a time when the Met is facing multiple accusations of failing to get a grip on domestic and sexual abuse committed by male police officers against women.
A freedom of information request sent by Byline Times asked the Met to disclose how many police officers faced disciplinary action for having an inappropriate sexual relationship or sexual contact with a suspect; a witness; a victim; or person in custody since 1 January 2018.
The Met refused, saying that “the information you have requested is not retrievable from MPS central searchable databases within cost”.
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Public authorities can refuse to respond to an FOI request if the cost of fulfilling it exceeds £450.
The Met further explained that “there are no flag [sic], feature code and currently no unique identifier upon our IT system from which management information can be produced, that would highlight how many police officers faced disciplinary action for having a sexual relationship or sexual contact with individuals stated above”.
The Met confirmed it does record accusations of officers accused of abusing their position for sexual purposes. The latter is defined as including “any relationship, communication, action or gratification of a sexual nature with a member of the public”.
However, the data is not collected in a format that is easily retrievable, making it harder for the public to understand the scale of offending, or what sanctions have been placed on officers engaging in inappropriate behaviour.
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Media reports suggest that there have been numerous occasions where male members of the Met police have initiated inappropriate sexual contact or relationships with vulnerable women over the past few years.
In October 2021, former Met Officer John McCarthy was found to have “abused his position” by starting a sexual relationship with a woman who was a suspect in a harassment case he was investigating in 2017. Andrianas Nikolajevas, a former trainee detective constable based at Waltham Forest, tried to engage in an inappropriate relationship with a woman he interviewed in custody.
As well as suspects, women who have gone to the Met for help have also been further victimised by officers abusing their power to pursue sexual contact.
PC Philip Hunter sent explicit messages to a survivor of domestic abuse who was suffering mental health problems, in a bid to pursue a relationship with her in 2017.
He left the force two years later and is barred from ever serving again, having been found guilty of gross misconduct after attempting to pursue an inappropriate relationship with another woman whose case he was investigating.
In a similar situation, Joseph Gilligan formed an inappropriate relationship with a domestic abuse victim. He resigned before he could be sacked.
Writing in the Metro, a survivor of domestic violence described being “groomed” by a Met officer who intended for her “to repay the ‘help’ he was offering me with a sexual relationship”.
“He was a police officer abusing his position of trust,” she wrote. “During this period of time, I was listed by the Met as a vulnerable person because of everything that I’d been through, and my poor mental health at the time. PC X would have known that from the day he turned up on my doorstep – and he was using it to his advantage”.
One woman is now taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police Service after a detective made an inappropriate comment about her appearance when she reported an attempted robbery in October 2011. DCI James Mason later faced eight allegations that led to him being found guilty of gross misconduct.
Adan Arib, another Met police officer, was jailed after trying to pursue sexual relationships with two teenage girls.
One reported case involved a female police officer pursuing an inappropriate relationship with a rape victim.
Failures to Act
Inappropriate sexual contact or relationships with victims, witnesses and suspects does not automatically lead to dismissal. An unnamed officer in a news report on Police Oracle received a written warning for “inappropriate contact” with a woman he met in the course of his duties.
A spokesperson for the Met said: “Allegations of sexual misconduct against officers and staff are taken incredibly seriously and we will take immediate action to investigate reports of wrongdoing”.
The sentencing of David Carrick, who committed multiple rapes and sexual assaults while serving in the Met, and the failure to take action against Wayne Couzens when he was reported for indecent exposure, has raised new questions about the failure of Britain’s biggest police force to act on allegations of gender-based violence and misogyny within its ranks. Couzens went on to abduct, rape and murder Sarah Everard in 2021.
Since Carrick’s guilty plea, the Met has re-opened more than 1,000 claims of sexual and domestic offences against its staff.
“Recent cases make it clear that we have let down women across London and we are more determined than ever to put that right,” said a Met spokesperson. “The Commissioner has been clear that he will rid the Met of those who corrupt our integrity by bringing the same intensive investigative approach to identifying wrongdoing in our own ranks as we do to identifying criminals in the community”.
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