Number of complaints over police handling of sex attacks and domestic violence soars

See quote from WAR below.

Revelations prompt warnings that forces are failing the most vulnerable victims, with campaigners saying police response is ‘matter of life and death’

• Harriet Agerholm The Independent
• @HarrietAgerholm
• 17 February 2018

Domestic abuse accounts for eight per cent of all recorded crime

The number of complaints received by the police watchdog over officers’ handling of sexual assault and domestic violence cases has soared in the past five years, new figures reveal.

Officers have been accused of abusing their powers for sexual gain, falsifying evidence and committing perjury in cases that campaigners say show forces are failing the most vulnerable victims in society.

Complaints to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for officers working on domestic abuse cases rose four-fold between 2011-12 and 2016-17, according to data released to The Independent under freedom of information laws. The spike far exceeds an increase in reported crimes during the same period, with figures indicating a rise of 42 per cent.

The number of referrals also rose against officers dealing with rape, stalking and child sex abuse cases.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, which supports victims of domestic abuse, said alleged mistakes by the police could be a “matter of life and death”. According to the charity’s research 78 people were killed by a current or former partner in 2016.

Complaints to the IOPC – formerly the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – are made by a force when it believes officers have failed to follow correct protocols.

In 2016-17 there were 342 referrals of officers dealing with domestic abuse cases, up from 83 in 2011-12.

The number of allegations against officers handling sexual assault and rape cases increased by 148 per cent to 206 referrals in 2016-17 – higher than the 130 per cent increase in reported crimes to the police.

Police chiefs last year asked the IOPC to look into 166 complaints about officer conduct in child sex abuse cases, including allegations that some were not investigated. There were 39 referrals in stalking cases in the same period. There were no complaints made to the body about the management of either of these types of crime in 2011-12.

The police handling of sexual assault cases has come under renewed attention after the Parole Board cleared serial sex attacker John Worboys’s for release from prison after he served nine years of an indefinite sentence.

The Metropolitan police has faced accusations of repeatedly failing Worboys’ victims. In 2010 the IPCC ruled that Worboys remain free because police officers made serious mistakes and failed to take victims seriously.

The overall number of referrals to the IOPC covering all types of crimes rose by 79 per cent over the same five-year period, after the watchdog criticised forces for attempting to deal with complaints internally.

Campaigners have warned that cases relating to domestic violence and sexual assault are particularly worrying because of the vulnerable nature of the victims.

They also said perpetrators of sexual attacks are likely to be repeat offenders, meaning failures in police investigations can lead to further attacks.

Concerns have also been raised about the lack of action taken against officers referred to the IOPC.

Of the hundreds of cases of alleged police misconduct in sex assault cases between 2011-12 and 2016-17, only 17 ended in sanctions for the individuals involved, freedom of information data reveals. Two of these officers were dismissed without notice, while three were given final written warnings.

In domestic abuse cases, 25 people faced sanctions over the same period, including 10 who were given written warnings. None of the officers accused of misconduct in domestic abuse cases were fired, the figures provided by the IOPC showed.

Lisa Longstaff, from Women Against Rape, said in her 30 years working with sexual assault victims, she had been “disgusted” by the low numbers of misconduct complaints that were upheld.

In cases where police officers abused their positions for sexual gain, this was particularly problematic, she said. “They don’t end up with a criminal record, they’re not convicted of rape, they don’t go on the sex offender’s register. And that has implications for future possibilities of abuse – getting jobs easily, working with other vulnerable people and possibly doing it again.

“Very occasionally they end up in court and get convicted, but mostly they get dealt with as a disciplinary matter. And that’s not acceptable. It effectively means they are above the law and that’s a very dangerous situation.”

Chief Constable Craig Guildford, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for complaints and misconduct, said the police were dealing with an increasing number of complex sexual offence cases.

“It is vital that we get our response to these right. We positively encourage people to report such offences and welcome the increased level of reporting which we recognise some people find incredibly difficult,” he said.

“We do everything possible to ensure that cases are investigated thoroughly, however, if somebody feels that this has not been the case, regardless of when it happened, it is absolutely right they seek an explanation and redress.

“Where a complaint is upheld we ensure that appropriate action is taken to address and learn from these failures.”

An IOPC spokesperson said: “Our independent investigations are both robust and thorough and where we find evidence of misconduct by officers we will refer our findings to the appropriate authority, or in the most serious cases the CPS.

“In just the last few weeks we have seen two officers charged by the CPS following an investigation in Essex and in Lancashire, a police officer was jailed for targeting vulnerable women. There are also many examples where we have directed forces to hold misconduct proceedings.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-officer-complaints-domestic-abuse-sexual-assault-cases-rise-watchdog-figures-a8214201.html

All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, & Women Against Rape 14/15 Feb @ LUSH Human Rights Summit

Performance: We are Here – because You are There
Our interactive play has been on tour to Coventry, Sheffield & the DSEI Stop to Arms Fair. Performed by asylum seekers from the All African Women’s Group, it depicts the real life injustices faced by rape survivors and others throughout the asylum process. Wed 14 Feb 1-2pm
Human Rights Room

Exhibition: For Those Who Died Trying
The dangers and issues faced by environmental rights
defenders in Thailand told through those who survived assassination attempts.
Filmed, photographed & edited by Luke Duggleby

Workshop/exhibition/films:
Support not Separation
Mothers speak of their struggle to keep and protect their children against unwarranted removal by social services and forced adoption. Plus art exhibition and protest films by Women Against Rape.
Wed 14 Feb 3-4pm
 

 

 

 

 

Govt forced to reassess mental health problems in 1.6m PIP benefit claims

A woman won a High Vourt victory in December which now forces reassessment of 1.6m PIP disability benefit claims. The Judge ruled the PIP assessment criteria are “blatantly discriminatory vs people with mental health impairments”.

This includes debilitating PTSD from rape. Well done the brave woman who brought this challenge to the High Court while we joined the public protest outside – a massive win for so many vulnerable people! And well done WinVisible, DPAC, WISH and other disability organisations for calling that protest https://www.mirror.co.uk/…/tory-government-reconsider-16mil… …; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42862904

WAR joined the protest of High Court, Dec 2017

On the decision to release notorious serial sex offender John Warboys

MEDIA STATEMENT, by Women Against Rape 5 Jan 2017

There has been an outcry at the parole of Warboys after serving 10 years for 19 offences against 12 women. Yet the police say that other women had reported him, perhaps up to 100, but he is about to be released without being tried for these crimes.  Why didn’t the CPS take him back to court?  Will they do so now, or continue to let him get away with it?  If he asks for protection such as a new identity will the authorities continue to protect him?

The scandalous way this case has been handled is typical of how the criminal justice system protects violent men while dissing their victims – like the police officer who laughed in a woman’s face when she tried to report Warboys, the pattern of attacks that police did not connect for ages, his release on bail (when he committed 14 offences). One lawyer said her client’s evidence was so poorly gathered that the CPS could not take it to court. In a case like this the police seem to be committed to defending the rapist.

Safety and justice for the women he attacked and other potential victims has rarely been the priority.

Tragically this is not the only man who got off lightly for heavy and violent crime.  Serial rapists, child abusers, domestic murderers are routinely being let off to attack again – from the child abuse scandals in Rotherham and many other cities, to the murder of partners. Consider Theodore Johnson, who killed three partners, and Robert Trigg, who killed two partners and almost got away with claiming they were both accidental, except for an 8-year campaign by in-laws. Two women a week are killed by partners and former partners but stopping that terrorism which makes many more victims is never prioritised.

Some of Warboys’ victims sued the police for the refusal to properly investigate and won damages, but the police have appealed.  The judgement has not been released yet.  Can we expect them to get away again with this horrendous failing in their duty of care?

The government which is backing the police in their appeal against Warboys’ victims has also cut escape routes for women and children – from refuges to public housing to benefits.

Once again rapists will get the message: if you committed one of the 6.5 % of rapes that ended in conviction, you may feel unlucky, but need not feel guilty.

Model letter to MPs re compensation – please use

Please adjust accordingly and send this letter to your local MP (find your MP’s name and contact details here)

[your address or email]

Dear [insert full name of MP]

As your constituent I urge you to take action to update the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for victims of crime, in particular for victims of rape and other sexual violence.

I am part of a grassroots campaign of survivors who are being treated extremely unfairly by the Scheme. We are working with Women Against Rape to spell out the main ways in which the Scheme discriminates against us as women and children victims of crime.

My experience of claiming compensation was…[insert one/two paragraphs – OPTIONAL].

Winning justice and compensation is official recognition and a crucial step to recovery. We appeal to you to support our campaign to change the following rules and practices:

  1. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) denies compensation to victims who delayed reporting to the police – Paragraph 23.
    As you may know, rape can be so traumatic to the victim that they may be unable to speak about it for some years. Many of us also experience shame, and pressure from others to stay silent.
  2. Living under thesame roof with your attacker before October 1979 disqualifies you from receiving compensation – Paragraph 19.
    Before 1979 the rule was that if your attacker lived in the same household as you, you were not entitled to compensation. It denies compensation to victims even those whose rapist was convicted. The excuse was that your attacker might benefit from your award. In 1979 that rule was abolished, but it was not made retrospective. Therefore, if you were raped before 1979, the discredited rule continues to apply to you. Between 2008-2013, for example, 502 victims of rape were denied an award under this discredited rule.

Since the Savile scandal more victims raped as children were encouraged to come forward, but are then denied compensation. A significant proportion of all rapes are committed by family members, and these crimes are among the most abusive and injurious. Retrospective payments must be awarded to those denied.

  1. Victims of rape who have criminal convictions are denied compensation – Paragraphs 25-27.
    Since 2015, at least 385 victims of sexual violence had been refused because of a conviction.[1] Convictions for non-violent and minor offences, including theft, drink-driving or an unpaid TV licence are routinely used to deny victims an award. The CICA claims that the state having once prosecuted us nullifies any claim we have for compensation as it was a drain on public resources. Instead, they should value the public service we performed of bringing a rapist to justice, protecting everyone’s safety. In any case, they punish us twice – first for the crime that we committed, and secondly for the crime against us. This affects some of the most vulnerable victims, penalising those who may have been criminalised as a result of the rape trauma they have endured. Victims often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to soothe their pain, and then get convicted. Sex workers face moralistic judgements on their ‘character and conduct’, even those without criminal convictions. We don’t want divisive moral judgements by the CICA as either good or bad victims.
  2. Time limit – Paragraphs 87-89.
    There is a two year time limit after the crime to make a claim to the CICA, or if it occurred when the victim was a child, two years from our 18th birthday. This rule disregards the common delays and pressures we face in rape investigations and trials. Sexual crimes take a notoriously long time to investigate and get to and through court. Also, the police advise victims not to claim until the end of a trial as defence barristers often argue that compensation is a motive for a false allegation. Such delays may put your claim out of time through no fault of your own. Secondly, the trauma of rape and the prosecution process (often called ‘the second rape’) prevents many victims from applying within two years. The time limit must be extended to at least five years, longer for those raped as children.
  3. Victims have to co-operate with the prosecution as far as reasonably possible – Paragraph 23.
    WAR has worked with victims who were denied compensation despite being sexually propositioned by their investigating officer, and with others who got dismissive sexist or racist treatment from the police. Yet these flagrant abuses of power were not considered by the CICA as legitimate reasons for victims to withdraw from the prosecution. Also, if the police are hostile and give evidence against us getting an award, the CICA invariably values their word over the victim’s.
  4. There is no legal aid and unrepresented survivors can face extremely hostile and upsetting questioning by CICA lawyers.
    It can be even worse than in criminal courts – with questions like, what we wore and why we didn’t scream. CICA appeals which are held in private, evading public scrutiny, have fallen behind updated protection for vulnerable witnesses in criminal and other courts. The CICA internal guidance for questioning vulnerable witnesses is neither public nor transparent and evades legal challenge.
  5. Victims below 16, the legal age of consent, are denied compensation.
    So far over 700 girls since 2012 were refused compensation as the CICA decided they had ‘consented to sex’, even where their attacker had been prosecuted in criminal court. So the rape of children as defined in law is not necessarily illegal for the CICA. How can the CICA be allowed to contradict the criminal law in this way? Embarrassing publicity recently forced the government to think again about definitions of rape of children. But they only told the CICA to take ‘grooming’ into account. Not all girls who were raped by older men were first groomed and therefore the CICA can still say they consented.

As you may be aware, compensation is often the only official acknowledgement of rape we get, given the low conviction rate of 6%.

In addition, an award can speed recovery practically, as many women suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries: years of suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness, substance abuse and the inability to relate to people. Those with mental health problems struggle to get treatment from the depleted NHS and dwindling therapeutic services — many face years on a waiting list and rationed appointments. In addition, we suffer life changing impacts such as losing a job, eviction, marital breakdown, being unable to cope with children, fear of public transport . . .

The basic award for rape is a mere £11,000, and this does not stretch far. Amounts should be increased, and decisions speeded up. There is a minefield of rules which put people off, as described above. Most don’t even know the Scheme exists or applies to them.

Please contact me urgently to discuss what you can do to help. We aim to gather a group of MPs to take action with us. Please support this campaign so that victims of sexual crimes are no longer blamed for an attack we suffered, and get the urgent help and acknowledgement we need in order to recover.

Please also copy your reply to Women Against Rape (war@womenagainstrape.net) with whom I am working against gross injustice.

Yours sincerely,

[put your name]

Copy to Women Against Rape

[1] Independent, 28 October 2017 Hundreds of sexual assault victims refused compensation for minor convictions; See also Rape victims denied compensation for petty convictions – Guardian and Hundreds of rape victims denied compensation in Scottish Herald

UPDATE: HUMAN RIGHTS VIGIL, 22 November 2017

Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa Family Reunion Appeal Hearing

Thanks to all who came to support Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa’s case to be reunited with her children. The vigil outside court garnered interest and support from passersby and people entering the court building. Over 15 women then went inside to listen to court proceedings, and although there weren’t enough seats the judge gave permission for everyone to stay so women perched on the window sills.

As the hearing was about to begin a problem came up with the interpreter. The judge, acknowledging the importance of interpretation in the “interests of fairness”,  decided to reschedule the hearing, fixing it for as soon as possible in] January as “the lives of two vulnerable girls are at risk”.

Outside court Brigitte said: “I will have to give my girls this heartbreaking news that they face a further six weeks of uncertainty. . . . sadly this will not be a Xmas to celebrate. But I thank the judge for her consideration and I have a hope that I will get a fair hearing when we come back to court in the New Year.”


 

Please support Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa, one of All African Women’s Group’s longest standing members, who is fighting to be reunited with her children.  They have been separated for almost twelve years after Brigitte was forced to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and raped in prison.  She spent seven years fighting for the right to stay in Britain while all of her children were lost to her.  When she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, she applied for them to come to the UK but was refused. Tomorrow this family appeals against their forced separation.
Messages of support welcome:

All African Women’s Group aawg02@gmail.com
Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net

You Can’t Lose if You Don’t Quit!

Ms R (62), a longstanding member of All African Women’s Group, finally won her right to stay in the UK after a 13 year struggle.  Ms R left Jamaica in 1990 to escape domestic violence from her partner.  Ms R’s father, who was a British citizen, had encouraged her to leave and come to live with him in Britain and eventually bring her son.  Sadly her father died in 1991 and she was forced to return to Jamaica and her abusive partner.  Unknown to Ms R this man started raping their son who, in 1997, left the island to escape this abuse.  Ms R was tormented by guilt when she found out what her partner had done.  She left for Britain again in 2000 and was able to remain for several years as a student while trying to regularise her status.  Private lawyers (charging a fortune) put together a number of applications for her to stay in the UK but they were so bad they were refused by the Home Office.

Ms R was close to ending her life when she came to BWRAP in January 2013.  She had never been able to speak before about the horrific abuse her son had suffered and her anguish at not being able to protect him.

She had been living hand to mouth and would have been homeless without a kindly landlord allowing Ms R to stay for free in one of his properties. (This would be illegal under the Immigration Act 2014).  The stress of being destitute and living for years under the threat of deportation had taken a terrible toll on her mental and physical health. On one occasion when she was asked how she was managing without any income, she said:

“I don’t know, sometimes I can do a little sewing in exchange for food, I never know if I am going to eat that day, I only get clothes if I find something in the jumble here (at the women’s centre), I have nothing for myself.”

In order to get legal aid for a lawyer to represent her Ms R had to apply for “Exceptional Case Funding” as she was not automatically entitled. This application was callously refused by the Legal Aid Agency despite compelling expert evidence from Notre Dame and ourselves confirming that Ms R is a traumatised and vulnerable woman. In tandem with this, BWRAP supported Ms R in making a formal complaint against one of the negligent private lawyers.

In the autumn of 2015 Ms R was at another very low point, coping with anxiety and panic attacks caused by the fear of being sent back. After much effort, BWRAP found her a solicitor at Camden Law Centre and a psychiatrist who wrote a report confirming that Ms R was traumatised.    At her appeal hearing Judge Rodger acknowledged that Ms R was a “vulnerable witness” in accordance with the Joint Presidential Guidance Note 2 of 2010*.  The Judge took into account the wealth of medical and other evidence including BWRAP’s written and practical support and Ms R’s “real” fear that she could be targeted by her community for what happened to her son.  She was finally granted Leave to Remain under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act on the grounds that it would be a disproportionate breach of her right to private life if she was returned to Jamaica. After thirteen years, Ms R has been given two and a half years status – a welcome, though insufficient, victory considering all that Ms R has suffered. On winning the right to stay Ms R commented:

If only I had found this sympathetic support group earlier – they have changed everything and made it possible for me to smile again. A great weight is off my mind – my life can definitely begin again!”

*The Practice and Guidance Notes which give guidance on the approach to be adopted by First Tier Tribunal judges when considering all the personal circumstances of an “incapacitated or vulnerable person when assessing their evidence”.

Protest against CAFCASS and NSPCC participation in Families Need Fathers (FNF) conference, Sat 14 October

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9qABVVtOY

FNF replied saying that they are a “reputable charity” but did not address domestic violence or any of the other issues raised.  A FNF man confronted the picket saying that ‘more children are killed by their mothers than by their fathers’.

To date we have received no reply to our Open Letter from either CAFCASS or NSPCC.

OPEN LETTER to CAFCASS and NSPCC re your PARTICIPATION in a conference run by FAMILIES NEED FATHERS (FNF) Sat 14 October

We understand that you are speaking at this FNF conference on parental alienation. You must be aware that FNF have consistently attacked women.

Must we refresh your memory? As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’ Recently we helped a father re-introduce contact with his child. He had previously gone to FNF and was horrified when their facilitators described the whole system as stacked against men, and

They kept referring to ‘feminist Nazis’. He said they promote and perpetuate misogyny and refused to go back.

FNF deny domestic violence, dismissing it as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.

Such claims are totally outrageous. Surely you know that:

  • One in five women aged 16-59 have suffered sexual violence in England and Wales;[1] two women a week are murdered by a partner or ex-partner; one in four women have been subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime; 81% of victims of domestic violence are women; domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime; 62% of children in households where domestic violence is happening are also directly harmed;[2] 50% of rapes are domestic. The level of false allegations of rape is less than 1% and less than 0.5% for domestic violence, both are much lower than false allegations for other crimes.[3]
  • Family courts have allowed violent fathers (even when they have a criminal record for violence) to terrify, threaten and intimidate those they had victimised and who managed to escape them. These legal standards would never be tolerated in an open court. Judges have insisted on contact and even residence, dismissing what women and children were telling them. Nineteen children and two mothers were killed between 2005 and 2015 following court orders to allow fathers unsupervised contact. (Women’s Aid)
  • FNF have the view that fathers who are estranged from their children have the same rights as mothers who do the daily work of caring and protecting them. That is the traditional patriarchal view by which children and their mothers are men’s property for them to do what they want with. No organisation or charity which gets public funds, especially ones that claim to speak for children, should give credence to such views.

We hope you will reconsider your participation in this conference.

Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape

law@allwomencount.net       war@womenagainstrape.net