Thirteen complaints of sexual misconduct by Metropolitan Police personnel were closed without being formally investigated last year, NationalWorld can reveal.
The figure - the highest of any force in England and Wales - includes seven allegations of sexual assault.
Closing complaint cases without investigation means the officers or staff involved cannot face the prospect of being sacked, or of their case being pursued in court.
Across England and Wales, more than half of allegations made about sexual misconduct of police officers were closed without being formally investigated in the year ending March 2022, NationalWorld has previously revealed.
The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), had said it would be checking “whether forces are dealing with these allegations appropriately”.
Now new figures, obtained from the watchdog through a Freedom of Information request, reveal more details about these misconduct allegations and the police forces they involved.
- Of the 143 allegations of police sexual misconduct closed without a formal investigation, nearly one in 10 were about Metropolitan Police officers or staff;
- At Hampshire Constabulary, none of the seven allegations of sexual misconduct received that year were formally investigated;
- The way complaints were handled varied widely by police force. At some, all allegations of sexual misconduct were formally investigated, at others it was none.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition said that “questions must be asked about why such incidents and reports are not being treated more seriously”.
The Met is currently seeking to regain the trust of the public after a series of high profile scandals, including the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens.
Couzens, who was already serving a whole life sentence for murder, has now been handed a 19 month prison sentence for three flashing incidents, one of which was committed while on duty.
And in February, former Met police officer David Carrick was jailed for at least 30 years for a string of rapes and other offences against women.
The attacks took place over a 17-year period in which he had been a serving officer. During this time, he came to the attention of the force numerous times - but still faced no criminal sanctions or misconduct findings.
Watchdog to check whether forces are ‘dealing with allegations appropriately’
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said police forces dealt with the “vast majority” of complaints but that the “most serious cases would come to us”.
It told NationalWorld: “For those cases handled by forces themselves, we will be dip sampling cases to check whether forces are dealing with these allegations appropriately, in line with the legislation, and with appropriate levels of victim care.”
It said its guidance to police forces did allow for some complaints to be handled without an investigation, such as those which were “repeated, spurious or vexatious”.
Andrea Simin, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said NationalWorld’s investigation showed that the “lack of meaningful consequences for police officers is clear”.
She said there must be transparency and accountability over how forces are dealing with officers and staff accused of violence against women, “given the amount of evidence that has come to light about internal cultures of misogyny within policing”.
She said: “The data also shows a huge amount of inconsistency across forces, underlining the need for strong leadership in efforts to transform how the police respond to perpetrators within their ranks and the cultures of misogyny that enable them.
“What’s particularly concerning is that a significant number of incidents aren’t dealt with as formal complaints. We are talking about complaints pertaining to sexual conduct; for these to be dismissed or handled outside of a formal complaints process is surely inappropriate, and questions must be asked about why such incidents and reports are not being treated more seriously.
“We’re also concerned that forces dealing with complaints informally or closing complaints without an investigation means the officers or staff subject to the complaints cannot then face disciplinary proceedings or criminal prosecution.”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “The Met takes any allegations regarding police-perpetrated incidents extremely seriously and they are regularly scrutinised at a senior level. Any allegation of sexual abuse concerning an officer or member of staff is robustly investigated.
“Tackling sexual offences is a priority for the Met, including when our own officers or staff are accused of offences. The Met will not hesitate to bring forward prosecutions and disciplinary procedures where appropriate and is determined to proactively root out those who corrupt its integrity.”
A spokesperson for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he fully supported the action being taken by the new Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to raise standards in the force.
The spokesperson said: “The Mayor will continue to support Sir Mark to tackle these issues with urgency and conviction so that we see the step change in culture that’s urgently needed in the Met as we work to build a safer London for everyone.”
Sex assault allegations among those not formally investigated
NationalWorld obtained figures from the IOPC showing the number of complaints against police of sexual assault, sexual harassment, abuse of position for a sexual purpose or other sexual conduct which were closed in the year ending March 2022, and how each was dealt with.
Of the 143 allegations of sexual misconduct which were closed without a formal investigation, 13 (9%) were about Metropolitan Police officers or staff.
They included seven sex assault allegations, one of sexual harassment, two of abuse of their position for a sexual purpose and three of other sexual conduct.
A further 19 allegtions of police sexual misconduct at the Met were formally investigated, including 10 sexual assault complaints.
The figures also show a large variation between different police forces in whether sexual misconduct cases were formally investigated. At some forces, all allegations of this nature went through a formal investigation process. At others, none did.
At Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, none of the seven allegations of sexual misconduct received that year were formally investigated, including four alleging sexual assault.
A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said: “All complaints made by members of the public are taken extremely seriously and each one is assessed, with investigations and action taken where appropriate.
“We record all of our formal complaints and informal complaints on the database that the IOPC draw these statistics from. Part of the process in assessing complaints is to look at information that is already held by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary. This assessment does mean that some matters can be filed without further investigation.
“All complaints are subject to an independent review process, if the complainant wishes to exercise their right of review. These reviews are carried out independently by either the IOPC or the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
The force said nine allegations of sexual misconduct were awaiting a misconduct hearing, while another nine remain under investigation.
Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones, added: “Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary have a robust complaints system in place and each complaint is assessed as to whether it reaches the threshold for misconduct. Those which do are formally investigated.
“As Commissioner, it is my top priority to make sure the force is upholding the highest standards of behaviour within its ranks, and installing robust processes which quickly root out, suspend and investigate those who are subject to complaints or allegations of corruption.”
The figures published by the IOPC do not include any complaint cases which began before February 2020, when the process changed, so are likely to underestimate the full number of complaints handled.
Members of the public make tens of thousands of complaints about the police every year, covering a wide variety of matters from the use of force, to discriminatory behaviour, to the driving of police cars.
All complaints from the public must be logged by police forces. Most are dealt with by the force directly - each force has a professional standards department that oversees this area - but certain serious matters must be referred to the IOPC.
With each complaint, the force has to decide firstly whether it is serious enough to be formally recorded, using criteria set out in the law.
More than a tenth (11%) of sexual misconduct allegations resolved by forces across England and Wales in 2021/22 were not formally recorded and were instead dealt with informally, IOPC data shows. Ways for complaints to be resolved informally include the police offering an explanation or apology or the force deciding to take no further action. If the complainant is not happy, they can ask for the matter to move to a formal process.
If a complaint is formally recorded, in some circumstances it must be referred to the IOPC, which can decide to run its own investigation. If this doesn’t happen, the force decides whether to investigate the complaint itself.
Investigations can end in the officer or staff member going through misconduct proceedings, which can result in them losing their job, or facing criminal prosecution. In reality, this happens incredibly rarely, as of all the 33,602 complaint cases dealt with formally in 2021/22, just 68 - 0.2% - resulted in the officer or staff member facing misconduct proceedings. None resulted in criminal proceedings.
Nearly half (47%) of formally recorded allegations of sexual misconduct were not investigated in 2021/22 - totalling 113 separate claims. In these cases, the officer or staff member cannot face misconduct proceedings and the force may seek to address the complaint in another way - for example, by offering an apology or explanation - or decide to take no further action.