Evidence to Home Affairs Committee on Domestic Violence from Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape, 5 July 2018

Summary: This evidence covers five key policy areas that result in increased vulnerability to domestic violence and lack of resources to escape violent men:

  1. Family courts and domestic violence
  2. Austerity cuts and domestic violence
  3. Destitution – a recipe for domestic violence
  4. The hostile environment for victims of domestic violence in immigration and asylum procedures
  5. Improving the police and CPS response to domestic violence, and victims’ experience of the Criminal Justice System

 1. Family courts and domestic violence (DV)

1.1 We are part of the Support Not Separation Coalition – a national network of mothers, grandmothers and other kinship carers, campaigners, psychologists, social workers, academics and other professionals. Reporting DV has become a major reason children are removed from their mothers often with the excuse that they are ‘at risk of future emotional harm’.  It is contrary to the welfare of the child and the mother, who is usually the child’s protector, for the child to be removed from her care.

1.2 Mothers’ experience of family courts is that domestic violence is often not believed, they are not given the protection they need, and are in every way disadvantaged – from legal aid to cross-examination by their attacker. Their trauma as a victim of a controlling relationship is not taken into account by judges who are often sexist and expect unrealistic standards of evidence while often excluding evidence such as reports from support organisations like ourselves or refuge workers.

1.3 In our experience the relevant Practice Directions (3AA and 12J) to assist vulnerable witnesses in the family court are often not implemented, and it is too soon to know whether recent changes to 12J (2018) are helping.

1.4 Family courts cannot fundamentally improve the treatment of vulnerable witnesses until they address the shocking disbelief commonly expressed by judges and other professionals when mothers or their children report that they have been victims of rape or other violence, including coercive and controlling behaviour by the father.  This bias against mothers and children has been well-documented: see Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers by Legal Action for Women 2017, and Domestic Abuse, Family Courts and Routine Failure to Protect Children by Mothers Unite UK 2017, Courts (Abuse of process) Bill 2018 presented by Liz Saville Roberts MP, Women’s Aid research (May 2018).  These all show that mothers still face routine disbelief and even questioning by their abuser in family courts.

1.5 In general, our experience is also that children’s wishes are often disregarded and mothers’ warnings about safety are disbelieved or ignored.

1.6 The family court (eg in Practice Direction 12J) recognizes that children suffer harm from witnessing DV to their mother, but in deciding to remove the child from the mother, they take no account of the harm that they will cause with that separation. In New York, the separation from the mother has been recognized in a 2002 precedent case as more traumatic to the child than witnessing DV, and courts are no longer allowed to take children from their mothers on that basis. The same principle needs to be applied in the UK.

1.7 Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act instructs local authorities to use their resources to support families so that children can stay within the family instead of being removed.  But it is rarely used, especially to support mothers who are DV survivors. It’s implementation must be prioritized.

1.8 Instead of support and protection, women victims of DV and children are punished.  We have been involved in a number of cases where children were taken from the mother when she reported DV or when it was discovered that she was a victim, traumatizing the child who was then placed with strangers.

1.9 Women are damned if they report DV and damned if they don’t. Either way, the father’s violence is blamed on the mother who is accused of failing to protect the child. Why isn’t the State instead acting against violent men?

1.10 Mothers who are particularly vulnerable to injustice in family courts include those who are victims of repeated rape and DV, BME mothers, migrant and immigrant mothers, those who are mentally disabled, single mothers especially those who are working class and/or on benefits, and all those who are denied legal aid.

1.11 It is outrageous that a family court judge has the power to rule in a Finding of Fact hearing whether or not a woman was raped or suffered violence.  These judges are sometimes more sexist than the rape-ticketed judges in the criminal courts.  Family courts have not kept pace with changes in other courts.  This is largely because criminal courts are public while family courts are not, what goes on there is little known and family court judges are not publicly accountable.  Some of them don’t know the law on rape or DV, and others have belittled rape as insignificant and repeated DV as unlikely to have happened.  The secrecy of family legal proceedings also cuts off the mother’s opportunities to seek support, keeping her isolated and increasinging her vulnerability.

1.12 Many social workers are also biased against mothers – blaming the woman is easier than confronting a violent and bullish man.  Budget cuts to local authorities have certainly contributed to harsher uncompassionate decision-making but merely increasing funding will not address the institutional bias in the system.  Sexism, racism and class bias needs to be addressed so that mothers and kinship carers are not treated as disposable or irrelevant in their child’s life, to be replaced by a foster carer, a children’s home or adopted by a better off family.

1.13 We are opposed to the privatisation of children’s homes and adoption services, which introduce a profit motive.  There is clearly a conflict of interest if agencies which are reporting to the court on what is best for the child are making money from children being taken into care.  The motivation should instead be the child’s welfare, and putting resources into helping women and children escaping domestic violence, not separating them.

1.14 In some cases the children are given to the father and the mother is banned from seeing them if she continues to raise that he is a danger to them.  The bias in favour of fathers even when they have a record for violence is extraordinary.  Even men with previous convictions or non-molestation orders can be concealed during the family case.

1.15 We can only conclude that the courts want men – even the most violent – to have access to their children and to their former partners, whatever they may say and whatever the consequences for safety.

1.16 The hostile fathers’ lobby, led by Families Need Fathers, has the support of the NSPCC and CAFCASS, and their recent campaign to get the authorities to recognize that they are victims of parental alienation is a worrying step towards misogyny.

1.17 It is well-known among mothers’ networks throughout the UK that men use the family court as a vehicle through which to continue to coerce and control a female partner who has left them.

1.18 Men are using the family court to get investigations of rape and DV dropped.  We know of cases where the police stopped investigating after a judge decided he didn’t believe the mother.  We also know of a number of cases where abusive men dared their victims to call the police as social services would come and take their children into care.  The mothers were petrified and didn’t report the violence as a result. Violent men are very confident – after all, they generally have the power of higher wages over women, and also the backing of the authorities which are more likely to believe them than women.

1.19 Mothers whose immigration status is dependent on staying with a violent partner are at particular risk.  Women in these situations have also experienced bullying and intimidation including terrifying threats to report them as “illegal overstayers” to the Home Office if they dare report the violence.  Family courts are far more likely to believe men and deport women causing untold harm to mothers and their children.

1.20 The State has to stop assuming that a man who is violent to his child or to his female partner is a good father.  Children are being forced into unwanted contact with violent uncaring fathers against their will.  Some children’s reports are dismissed as the result of manipulation or coaching by their mother.  On the other hand, we have seen cases where a child said their mum has once slap them and the child was removed from that mother, a totally disproportionate response.

1.21 None of this is in the interests of the child – a key principle that family professionals are supposed to uphold.

1.22 The government is proposing to train a wide range of professionals to spot domestic abuse.  But what are they supposed to do about that abuse?  Every state agency has become more intrusive and punitive while offering very little help as a result of wide-ranging funding cuts.  Does spotting abuse result in more children of DV victims being taken into care?  Does a mother lose her housing after DV?  If she lost her job, what welfare benefits are left to support her?

1.23 Action points – We strongly recommend that the family courts should:

  • End the secrecy of family court proceedings. They must be open to public scrutiny in a way that protects the child’s identity (eg call the parents A and B).
  • Stop forcing children into unwanted contact with violent uncaring fathers.
  • Stop men using the family courts as a vehicle through which to continue to control a female partner who has left them.
  • Use Section 17 to provide resources to families who are poor, rather than take their kids away.
  • Reverse the privatisation of children’s homes and adoption services.
  • Stop taking children from mothers who report or are victims of domestic violence. They need protection not separation.

 2. Austerity cuts and Domestic Violence

2.1 DV has to be viewed in the context of the life conditions of women and children and the policies that help or hinder their conditions.  The government has cut women’s escape routes out of DV by massively cutting benefits, social housing, legal aid, advice lines, and funding to refuges.  Of the austerity cuts 86% have fallen on women.[1]  Many already cannot get appropriate mental health treatments on the depleted NHS.  Merely training officials to spot violence is not going to address any of this; it will instead increase state powers against women and children.  In the absence of resources and help, state agents such as social workers tend to prioritise policing mothers and punitively removing their children.

2.2 Research shows that low income Black and Asian women are the poorest and pay the highest price for austerity. Camden where we are based is ranked the 15th most deprived borough in London and has one of the highest rates of child poverty – 60% of children live in low income families. Mothers risk their children being taken into care when their poverty is equated with “neglect”. In 2011, 56% of Camden’s residents described being of Black minority ethnic origin or non-white. The overwhelming majority of rape and DV victims who come to us for help are working class and disproportionately affected by poverty, racism and other discrimination compared to the general population.

2.3 We refer you to recent evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee by WinVisible – Women with visible and invisible disabilities, to which we contributed. Universal Credit paid to the man in the household is a recipe for DV, as is the benefit cap:

https://winvisibleblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/winvisible-submission-on-assessments-with-quotes-updated.pdf

2.4      ‘The single monthly payment when paid to violent men is as dangerous as the total benefit cap, which is condemned by Women Against Rape for trapping women and children with violent men, and for penalising single mothers fleeing violence who rely on benefits to pay the rent in their safe accommodation. When the total benefit cap was first challenged at the Supreme Court in 2015, although the overall appeal failed, Lady Hale, currently President, stated: “The prejudicial effect of the cap is obvious and stark… This prejudicial effect has a disproportionate impact upon lone parents, the great majority of whom are women, and is also said to have such an impact upon victims of domestic violence, most of whom are also women”’(para 180, see http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2015/16.html

2.5 Action points

  • We support WinVisible’s demands to Stop and scrap Universal Credit, to reinstate disability benefits (including for women with mental ill-health caused by the trauma of domestic rape and other violence).
  • Reinstate welfare and housing benefits and end benefit sanctions
  • Reinstate legal aid.
  • Fund emergency and permanent housing for women fleeing violence beginning with the established network of refuges. Housing benefit is essential for refuges to survive.
  1. Destitution – a recipe for domestic violence

3.1 Destitution puts women at grave risk of domestic violence.  Women left with no money or resources are prey to every predatory, violent, exploitative man who takes advantage of the fact that she is desperate and has no routes to escape. This includes violent and abusive husbands, boyfriends and partners. For the government to deliberately make women destitute is to encourage and promote this abuse.

3.2 Destitution was first deliberately deployed against women seeking asylum (and with other immigration applications) whose legal cases had failed and been closed.   Many have already suffered domestic violence before coming to the UK. Our own and other research has found that over 70% of asylum-seeking women have fled rape in their country of origin. With the introduction of Section 55 (of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002) asylum-seekers who did not make a claim immediately on arrival in the UK were denied any support. Literally hundreds of women came to the door of the women’s centre where we are based. Some were sleeping in parks, in hospital A&E units, on night buses.

3.3 The deliberate policy of destitution against asylum-seekers and other immigrants has since been rolled out against many other women, making them also more vulnerable to domestic violence. For example, benefit sanctions and the delays in paying Universal Credit, have left many women with absolutely no income, or living below the poverty line, sometimes for months on end.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 2018 report found 1.5 million people destitute in the UK.

3.4 Destitution among women is particularly hidden, as they are less likely to be “street homeless” because of the fear of violence. In one study, 35% of destitute homeless women asylum seekers in the UK reported being raped.[2]  Instead women tend to rely on family, friends, acquaintances and strangers for a roof over their head and the basic necessities. This makes them vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence. For example, one woman in our network described fighting off attempted rape by the husband of the woman she was staying with.  She couldn’t risk telling his wife for fear she would end up in an even more dangerous situation on the street.  Nor could she tell the authorities, for fear she would be detained and removed because she had no immigration status. Another mother who was given shelter in exchange for childcare and housework became homeless when her son was physically attacked by the male head of the household.

3.5 Even when women win their legal cases, some are denied access to public funds and remain victims of or become vulnerable to domestic violence.

3.6 A government that makes women and girls deliberately destitute cannot claim to be taking action to protect women from domestic violence.

3.7 Action points:

  • Ending destitution is essential in tackling domestic violence. No-one should be left without the means to survive, least of all some of the most vulnerable women in the community – many of whom are already victims of domestic violence.
  • End the No Recourse to Public Funds policy.
  • The government should provide women who had fled from domestic violence to the UK with resources and protection in order to meet its Istanbul Convention obligations towards victims “irrespective of immigration status”.
  1. The hostile environment for victims of domestic violence in immigration and asylum procedures

4.1 Women are made destitute when their immigration applications are turned down, but in our experience cases fail unjustly because women do not get the legal and other help they need.  The hostile environment is deeply embedded in how asylum and immigration cases are considered.

4.2 To our knowledge no investigation or account has been taken of the impact on women’s vulnerability to domestic violence by how the Home Office treats asylum and immigration cases. A callous, hostile and frequently unjust system results in women being unable to report domestic violence and rape, and uses their difficulties in speaking about these horrific experiences to disbelieve them when they do. WAR’s Refuge from Rape and Destitution Campaign is highlighting how the Home Office and judges routinely flout case law and their own guidelines on how women should be treated, so that no consideration is given to the traumatic impact of rape and domestic violence.

4.3 Policies are being employed that deliberately disrupt women’s ability to pursue their legal cases: the Chapter 60 policy which sets a three month “window” within which women get no further notice of removal; certification which denies the right to an in country appeal, including by holding women at fault for not reporting rape and domestic violence earlier; fast-track decisions by the enforcement team charged with meeting targets for removals rather than a fair and thorough consideration of the evidence presented. The legal aid cuts compound the injustice, leaving many victims going to appeal hearings unrepresented or in the hands of inept or even corrupt private lawyers.

4.4 Action points:

  • Restore the right to legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases
  • End the “deport now appeal later” procedures so all appeals can be heard in the UK.
  • Withdraw the Chapter 60 “windows” policy and allow people time to access lawyers and the courts to challenge removals/deportation.
  • All Home Office and Tribunal hearings must adhere to their guidance about the treatment of vulnerable victims.
  • The government must recognise that severe and prolonged domestic violence is torture and that under the Convention Against Torture victims are entitled to resources and support to recover in the UK even if this took place in another country.
  • The UK should ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention to help protect vulnerable immigrant women in the UK, who otherwise have little protection and may be deported if they try to report violent men.
  1. Improving the police & CPS response, and victims’ experience of the justice system
  •  We do not call for any more powers to the police, as they are not using them accountably but are instead abusing them to intimidate and even arrest the women reporting violence.
  • The police and CPS do not implement the existing laws against domestic violence. They must be made to do so or be sacked.

5.3 The police can’t be relied on to investigate domestic violence, including domestic rape and even murder.  Nothing in your paper seriously addresses the current problems in how existing domestic violence laws are applied and the appallingly low conviction rate of 6.5% (Women’s Aid website 2014).  Two women are still being killed every week – often after many calls to the police and police inaction.  Yet no officer has ever been prosecuted or properly held to account for the bias or negligence that resulted in such deaths.  Even when the police were found guilty of failing in their duty of care to victims, we are not aware that the officers responsible were demoted, sacked or prosecuted.  If any have been, we would like to know.

5.4 The police already have laws and resources at their disposal if they choose to use them to protect women from rape and domestic violence.  They often choose not to.  In relation to rape – they seem to make up their own version of the law.  The Met was sued successfully this year for refusing to investigate serial rapist John Warboys –upheld by the Supreme Court despite a £1m legal appeal by the Met and government support.

5.5 When will they be held similarly accountable for refusing to investigate DV?

5.6 We know from extensive experience over four decades that in response to reports of domestic violence, the police and CPS do not always record them properly; in many cases they don’t gather, don’t test, or lose forensic and witness evidence; and they do not charge appropriately.

5.7 They put pressure on women to retract, and in some cases investigate the woman for committing some kind of crime, including accusing her of lying.  This has been evidenced by whistleblower PC James Patrick and other officers to the Public Administration Select Committee in November 2013, who testified that many women are bullied by police into retracting their allegations of rape.

5.8 Also, the 2014 HMIC report ‘A Matter of Fact’ said: “We are seriously concerned about the picture that is emerging – one of weak or absent management or supervision of crime recording and serious sexual offences not being recorded (14 rapes).  Some offenders have been issued with out of court disposals where their offending history could not justify it.  In some cases they should have been prosecuted.”  [HMIC REPORT]  Little has changed according to more recent reports.

5.9 The issue of rape as a serious and common form of DV, and the additional disbelief/suspicion that comes from many professionals/officials rarely receives official acknowledgement.  Every woman who ‘cries rape’ is suspected of lying, particularly if they have ever suffered violence before.  Yet it is well known that DV is a recurrent crime and that most victims suffer many attacks before they report.

5.10 The police also need to stop investigating rape and domestic violence separately when they are committed by the same perpetrator.  Rape is part of the definition of domestic violence; when they are investigated together more evidence will become available to build a case, get the CPS to charge appropriately, and more violent perpetrators can be convicted.

5.11 The CPS legal guidance on domestic violence says:

“Where a summary only offence has been committed, such as common assault, any charge(s) or information must be laid within 6 months of the date of the alleged incident.  This time limit may prevent some previous cases being joined with those involving later complainants.  However, the earlier victim(s)/complainant(s) may still be able to support the more recent case through the use of bad character evidence.”  https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/domestic-abuse-guidelines-prosecutors

5.12 This time limit of six months is a major problem in many cases and in practice results in many cases being dropped as out of time or the number of charges heavily reduced.  In court the woman victims find the history of domestic violence has been reduced to a single incident, and isolated from the pattern of other violence and threats to kill – such a representation is much less serious and convincing and less likely to result in the conviction and sentencing the crimes deserve.  Domestic violence incidents such as common assault, threats to kill, or threats to harm the children, should not be prosecuted as a summary only offence.

5.13 We strongly disagree with the government’s proposed new statutory definition of domestic violence which would make the law gender-neutral.  The current definition does not exclude men and boys.  But the proposed definition would take out gender completely thus hiding that the overwhelming majority of DV victims are women.  We have found that removing gender from violence which is very gendered further reduces women’s power to get protection and justice.  Men who are violent and controlling feel ‘entitled’ to exercise power over women and are adept at portraying themselves as ‘victims’ when they don’t get their way.  A gender neutral definition would play into their hands and should not be introduced.

5.14 We have seen many cases where men call the police on their victim in order to discredit her and cast doubt on what she has to say; tragically they are often successful.  Institutional sexism within the police and the criminal justice system as a whole results in women being disbelieved more than men, and facing harsher treatment.

5.15 Research by Prof Marianne Hester in 2009 ‘Who Does What to Whom?’ found that women are disproportionally arrested for DV compared to men.  Women are 3 times more likely to be arrested for DV – they are arrested every 3 incidents out of 10, whereas men are arrested every 1 incident out of 10.

5.16 More women victims of DV will be arrested and even charged if their violent partner can use this new definition as leverage to deflect blame away from themselves.  This already happens and will happen even more often.  More disbelief and prosecutions of women will follow, deterring even more women from reporting and seeking justice.

5.17 There is no better encouragement to women to engage with the criminal justice system than to improve the conviction rate and to robustly enforce the restrictions of movement on their attacker.

5.18 The victim should not be forced to prosecute or testify.  She is in the best position to judge whether a prosecution of her attacker will protect or endanger her, or her children.

5.19 Women must be given the power, protection, resources and support to follow through with a prosecution, rather than take it out of their hands and prosecute their attacker behind their back and without their consent.  It is punitive and heavy handed to prosecute a perpetrator of DV without giving his victim any police protection, and without changing the economic and other conditions in which she has been living so her and her children’s survival and safety are assured.

5.20 There are too many cases where women’s sexual history is still allowed in court.  Evidence found sexual history to have been used in a quarter to a third of rape trials (Vera Baird: Seeing is Believing: The Northumbria Court Observers Panel. Report on 30 rape trials 2015-16., and Application of Section 41 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999: A Survey of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs), by Lime Culture 2017.)

5.21 We are glad to see that Vera Baird and Harriet Harman are finally pressing for what we demanded during the formulation of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill in 1999, where we made it clear that evidence of sexual history with men other than the defendant should be excluded from trials.  Worryingly, Vera Baird’s evidence of breaching the current restrictions on evidence was totally dismissed by the Attorney General recently.

Contact: Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net
Women Against Rape war@womenagainstrape.net
tel 0207 482 2496

[1] Women’s Budget Group

[2] Underground Lives, PAFRAS Report March 2009

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

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.

Read more: key points from Dr Jay’s report

A Summary of issues raised in the ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013)’ by Dr Alexis Jay, issued in August 2014.

Download a pdf of the full Report here
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013) 

Good Press report in the Telegraph

This striking report is a breakthrough but leaves many questions unanswered.  See WAR’s Questions to the Home Affairs Committee.

Refusal to Investigate and Prosecute

The Report says that over 1,400 girls suffered multiple crimes including: rape, child abduction, threats with guns, being given Class A drugs and alcohol, witness intimidation such as serious injury to themselves and other members of their families. This has been known by council social services and police since at least 2004, perhaps even since the late 1990s.

“At an operational level, the police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.

“Further stark evidence came in 2002, 2003 and 2006 with three reports known to the police and the council, which could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham. The first of these reports was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained. This had led to suggestions of cover-up. The other two reports set out the links between child sexual exploitation and drugs, guns and criminality in the borough. These reports were ignored and no action was taken to deal with the issues that were identified in them.”

No councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on, following explicit reports by Risky Business to council meetings in 2004 and 2005 naming 50 perpetrators, including names of taxi firms, individual taxi drivers, and takeaways, and addresses where rape took place, yet no concerted action followed for years. Some interviewees told the Report writer they suspected family or business connections with taxi firms, takeaways and hotels where the girls were raped, but police said there was no evidence of this.

The Director of Education 2001-2005 raised concerns with police three times, after the heads of three schools had told her of girls being picked up at the school gates by taxi drivers for abuse. “Police watched the schools in unmarked cars but the problem persisted.” “… she described how she was shown a map of the north of England overlaid with various crime networks including ‘Drugs’, ‘Guns’, and ‘Murder’. She was told that the Police were only interested in putting resources into catching ‘the ring leaders’ who perpetrated these crimes”. . . “if they were caught, her local problems would cease.”  (pp 103-4)

The police and children’s services dramatically reduced the number of girls being monitored so that only tiny numbers of girls were identified as at risk of sexual exploitation.  “The Police reason for removing several girls from monitoring was they were pregnant or had given birth. All looked after children were removed from the list.” Risky Business challenged this decision.  (pp 104-5)

“…Between 2007-2013, the Police undertook a series of operations, jointly coordinated and designed to investigate cases of suspected child sexual exploitation, although only one resulted in prosecution and convictions … It ended in 2010 with 5 convictions.” (p 4)

“…Operation Chard in 2011 led to abduction notices and 11 arrests but no convictions.”

Child S, aged 17, was murdered – police dismissed it as an unconnected ‘honour killing’ by her boyfriend jealous of her having sex with other men. He was convicted. Her sister had been in care and was known to have been groomed.

Crown Prosecution Service

The Report says that the employees of the CPS dealing with CSE before 2010 have now retired.

CPS closed many of the cases because ‘they used rape myths against the victims’.

It took nine months in one case for the CPS to make a decision to take no further action against one of the perpetrators.

Rotherham councillors

The Report says no councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on. Risky Business reported on suspected family or business connections between politicians and perpetrators.

No minutes were kept in 2005, when Council Leader Roger Stone chaired a group to ‘take forward’ the above issues raised by Risky Business.

Council Leader in 2006 Roger Stone told a Tory councillor not to publicly raise concerns raised by his constituents about child exploitation, and that they were being dealt with by police.

Police and Crime Commissioner

PCC Shaun Wright was aware of the scale of rape and other crime from at least 2005 as the Lead Member for Children and Young People (2005-2010).

A question of priorities

A lot of the girls were in care; why is their safety considered worth less than others?

Prostitution has been used as an excuse to ‘blame’ these rape victims by claiming it was a ‘lifestyle choice’. But many of the girls were under aged 14 at the time, and were victims of rape or paying for sex with an underage girl. When they tried to get help from police, social workers or others in authority, they were not only denied help but criminalised, as were loved ones who tried to get the rapes to stop.

Race and ethnicity were used as an excuse to justify the lack of action against the perpetrators. The Report repeats claims that the authorities feared accusations of racism if they took action.  This presumes that the Asian community would stand with rapists rather than victims, which is a blatant piece of racism by the police, the council, politicians and social services. The Asian community was outraged by the perpetrators and the way victims were treated.

Since the Report was published Asian women and girls have publicly stated that Asian girls were also being raped by adults.

What were the police doing instead of investigating and arresting child rapists? S Yorkshire is the same police force found to have been acting illegally at Orgreave during the miners’ strike (1984-5) and Hillsborough.

Why do the police deal with rape cases so badly? Lisa Longstaff in the Guardian

Their record in rape cases is abysmal – and they seem to resent accountability, preferring to improve PR rather than performance

Lisa Longstaff
theguardian.com, Monday 4 March 2013 09.00 GMT

Allegations of sexual violence and cover-up are threatening every institution. Can rape be dealt with when so many in authority are themselves guilty? Of course it can. But first the police, charged with enforcing the law, must change.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has investigated London’s Sapphire rape units nine times in seven years – that’s 19 officers disciplined, three dismissed, one imprisoned for fraudulently closing rape cases and another under investigation.

The latest IPCC report reveals the Southwark police policy to press women to withdraw or retract rape allegations. “This local standard operating procedure, authorised by senior officers, increased the number of incidents that were classified as ‘no crime’ and therefore increased the sanction detection rates for the unit” (by 25%-30%).

This was also policy in five other London boroughs. Fiddling the figures is fraud, and enabling rapists to go free amounts to criminal conspiracy. How many of the victims denied protection were raped again or worse? We already know that one alleged attacker killed his children. Were other women raped by these men? Did any victims denied justice take their own lives?

Further, victims who retract allegations can face prosecution. Layla Ibrahim and Gail Sherwood were both prosecuted in 2010 (as were at least 30 others). Both said they were pressed to retract under threat of prosecution. One did, the other refused. Both were imprisoned.

We have been campaigning against the prosecution of women who report rape. In 2011, 27 organisations signed our letter to the director of public prosecutions. He responded with guidance: the CPS should not prosecute women with mental illness, girls under 18 or victims of domestic violence. But he refused to acknowledge that negligent and biased investigations can result in jail for rape victims rather than rapists.

We are working with three women facing criminal charges. Several others were prosecuted for harassment after their rapists made counter allegations and were believed. Sex workers who reported violence were also prosecuted.

Last year, in a landmark human rights case, the daughter of a Women Against Rape volunteer won compensation from the police, following seven years of campaigning, after Southwark Sapphire lost evidence of the rape. The rapist was acquitted; we later learned he had been accused of another rape. A damning IPCC report found that Sapphire detectives were told to prioritise motor crime over rape. Four junior officers were disciplined. But the commander who set the policy went on to the National Centre for Policing Excellence – setting standards.

The IPCC now reveals that two senior officers involved in the case of serial sex offender Kirk Reid (who is thought to have assaulted between 80 and 100 women) were promoted, rather than disciplined. One later retired on full pension.

In 2009 and 2012 we met the heads of Sapphire. We demanded they stop promoting bad officers, and opposed their proposal to prosecute rapists for offences other than rape. We later wrote to DCI Duthie: “…resources will be diverted into gathering ‘intelligence’ for less serious crimes, avoiding a thorough investigation of the sexual violence allegations … Is it to do with officers having their own agenda rather than paying attention to what the victim reports?” We warned that “police priorities would again be skewed, the myth that rape is difficult to prosecute reinforced, and thus that there is no point investing too much into investigating it”.

We pointed to the separation of rape from domestic violence as a major obstacle, since more than half the rapes reported in London are by partners or ex-partners. Different units deal with each crime, so the full picture is hidden – cases are dropped or prosecutions fail.

Why do the police deal with rape so badly? Some are rapists themselves – a 2012 IPCC report, produced with the co-operation of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), looked at 54 accusations of sexual assault against officers. Some are sexist – a 2005 Home Office study revealed that many officers believed women are liars. Some are lazy or incompetent. Those officers who are committed to doing their job and seeing victims get justice clearly have less influence over priorities.

Like many in positions of power, the police seem to resent accountability. They have responded to anti-rape campaigning by improving their PR rather than their performance, and befriending the voluntary sector.

The IPCC helps them. Created to police the police, it shamelessly endorses the police claim that the problem is “historic” rather than current. In December 2012 the IPCC invited Eaves, Rape Crisis, NIA Ending Violence, Victim Support and the Havens to meet. The IPCC says all agreed that Sapphire, though patchy, has improved; all that is needed, it seems, is for frontline police to be trained in “informed consent” and “cultural issues”. Each one of these organisations (statutory or voluntary) is funded by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice or the police. Those of us who are independent of police and government were not invited.

If senior officers were prosecuted when they pervert the course of justice, sexual violence investigations would improve. So would the behaviour of men, beginning with those in authority.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/04/police-behaviour-sex-attacks-women-change 

Former Met police officer admits failing to investigate rape cases

Ryan Coleman-Farrow faked police reports, failed to pass on evidence and falsely claimed to have interviewed suspects
Share 150

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 September 2012 14.51 BST

An investigator from the Metropolitan police specialist sex crimes unit has admitted failing to investigate the alleged rapes and sexual assaults of 12 women by faking police reports, failing to pass on forensic evidence and not interviewing suspects.

The activities of detective constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow – who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of misconduct in public office on Wednesday – focus attention once more on Scotland Yard’s sapphire unit, which is supposed to be the gold standard for rape investigations across the country. Coleman-Farrow’s omissions in 13 rape and sexual assault investigations over three years have left 11 men suspected of rape and sexual assault at large, and his misconduct means the cases are “incapable of full and proper investigation” and will always remain unsolved.

His case was one of four major investigations into the unit by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which is due to publish a report on Sapphire in the autumn.

It emerged in court that over the time he was involved in investigating rape cases Coleman-Farrow was ill and, according to the judge, the recorder of Westminster Alistair McCreath, he was not looked after properly.

However, the IPCC, which carried out an independent inquiry into Coleman-Farrow after concerns were raised in 2010 about his performance, said their investigations had not found any supervisory failings within the Met police. They will publish their full report on 11 October when Coleman-Farrow is sentenced.

Coleman-Farrow, 30, who was dismissed from the Met police in April last year, stood in the dock at Southwark crown court to answer his name, and pleaded guilty to 13 charges of misconduct in public office by wilfully engaging in conduct amounting to an abuse of public trust between January 2007 and September 2010 when he was working at the Sapphire unit in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. The cases he failed to investigate, the court heard, involved 10 rape cases and three sexual assaults and included inquiries he carried out after Scotland Yard’s radical overhaul of Sapphire following a series of scandals involving serial rapists who were not investigated.

Mark Heywood QC, prosecuting, said: “The case involves investigations by this defendant, a serving police officer, into allegations of sexual offending.

“The indictment alleges against him 13 offences of misconduct in relation to each of the 13 investigations carried out.

“Behind the evidence stand 12 complainants and 11 suspects in total.

“In almost all cases no proceedings resulted and certainly no conclusion adverse to anyone was ever reached.”

The court heard that Coleman-Farrow repeatedly made false entries on the police computer to report that the Crown Prosecution Service had advised no further action in cases. He also failed to view CCTV footage on a number of occasions, failed to submit forensic evidence for analysis, lied about taking a statement from a victim, falsely claimed one victim had withdrawn support for a prosecution, falsely claimed to have interviewed suspects when he had not, falsified a witness statement and failed to interview key witnesses.

Heywood said a thick line had now been drawn by the Met police under all 13 investigations as a result of the failures by the officer. He said: “There is now no prospect of these matters being progressed in any further respect.”

Coleman-Farrow’s activities first emerged in 2010 when the CPS became concerned that information and evidence from cases he was involved in were not being passed to them. In September of that year two sex workers – Jaime Perlman, 37, and Riley Lison-Taylor, 33 – gassed themselves to death in a suicide pact at a flat in Putney, south London and left notes which accused the Metropolitan police of not properly investigating their complaints against clients who had stalked them.

During the internal inquiry following their deaths Coleman-Farrow’s name came up again as an officer who was involved in investigating Perlman’s stalking allegations in 2009. Coleman-Farrow was cleared of the allegations made by Perlman, but after an independent inquiry by the IPCC he was charged with the 13 misconduct counts relating to other cases.

It is understood the officer was interviewed four times during the IPCC investigation and said that he had been suffering from cancer during the period they were investigating.

The court heard on Wednesday that his ill health would be key to the court assessing his culpability. Heywood said that issue was likely to be common ground between the prosecution and defence. He said a significant part of the offending took place between September 2009 and September 2010 and the relationship between his conduct then and his health at that time was an important factor.

The judge gave the former officer bail before sentencing on 11 October.

A spokeswoman for Women Against Rape said: “This is a very serious case, because at least 12 victims have been denied justice and at least 11 rapists have received impunity as a direct result of this man’s actions.

“Every single case this specialist officer has been involved in should be reviewed.”

The IPCC said Coleman-Farrow appeared to be a “rogue” officer and they did not identify supervisory failing. However, another officer from Sapphire is currently under investigation by the IPCC for similar offences of falsifying records to suggest cases were closed when they were not.

The deputy chair of the IPCC, Deborah Glass, said: “Ryan Coleman-Farrow was entrusted to investigate serious sexual offences and support some of the most vulnerable people in the criminal justice system. He let them down by his calculated abuse of their trust. His actions are beyond belief.

“The MPS [Metropolitan police service] have told us they reviewed all cases where Mr Coleman-Farrow was officer in charge and I understand that, where cases required further or re-investigation, this has been done.

“Our investigation did not reveal systemic or serious supervisory failings … While dealing with rogue individuals must always be a concern in any system, supervisory systems will not necessarily pick up on an officer who has concocted evidence to cover their tracks.”