It’s been yet another overwhelming week of tragic news for women.
Police officer and serial rapist David Carrick was finally sentenced for his decades-long campaign of sexual violence, police believe a headteacher, Emma Pattison, and her daughter were shot dead by her husband and Lancashire mum Nicola Bulley remains missing under a cloud of mystery.
Each of these cases has left me with questions about the police: How did Carrick get away with it? Why was Emma declared an isolated incident? How were police so sure Nicola was in the river?
Following the death of Sarah Everard at the hands of a serving officer, trust in the police has been at an all-time low for women. But in the two years that have passed, platitudes have been served, apologies have been issued, but very few lessons appear to have been learned.
Mark Rowley, Commissioner for the Met Police, issued yet another apology this week following Carrick’s sentencing.
‘We weren’t rigorous enough in our approach and as a result we missed opportunities to identify the warning signs over decades,’ he said. ‘I want to again reiterate my apology on behalf of the Met. We are truly sorry.’
The Met received eight complaints from women about Carrick, but failed to take action to prevent him from reoffending, to protect women from being raped, having a gun held against their head or being locked in a cupboard and urinated on.
Rowley’s apology rang hollow when I learned that not a single serving or retired officer would face any disciplinary action for their failure to properly reprimand Carrick.
An internal review into the Met’s dismissal processes has been announced by the Home Secretary, yet the Independent Office for Police Conduct have not been tasked with an investigation. Once again, the Met are permitted to mark their own homework.
Key events in the David Carrick case
1996-1997: Carrick serves in the British Army.
2000: He is a suspect in two offences reported to the Met involving allegations of malicious communications and burglary against a former partner after Carrick refused to accept the end of their relationship. He is not arrested and no further action is taken.
August 2001: Carrick joins the Met. After training he works as a response officer based in Merton, south-west London.
2002: While still in his two-year probationary period, Carrick is accused of harassment and assault against a former partner. He is not arrested by the Met and no further action is taken. The matter is not referred to the Directorate of Professional Standards.
2002: Carrick is the subject of the first of five public complaints made between 2002 and 2008. Two allegations that he had been rude were dealt with by management action locally, while three relating to incivility and use of force were withdrawn or dismissed.
2003: His first known victim is repeatedly raped.
2004: Carrick rapes another woman.
2004: Carrick is involved in a domestic incident but no criminal allegations are made to the Met, he is not arrested and the matter is not referred to the Directorate of Professional Standards.
July 2005: The officer is now based in Barnet, north London.
2006-2009: On multiple occasions, the officer rapes a woman, whom he abuses, threatens with violence and demeans. She fears she will not be believed if she reports him.
2009: Carrick is transferred to what is now the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, where his role involves providing an armed policing presence at parliamentary, government and diplomatic premises.
2009: Hertfordshire Police receive a domestic abuse report from a third party involving Carrick but neither party makes a complaint and no charge is brought. Hertfordshire Police inform Met supervisors.
2009: Carrick meets his next victim, a 51-year-old woman, whom he sexually assaults after a social evening.
August 2009: He sexually assaults a 47-year-old woman after sharing a hotel room following a social event.
November 2009: Carrick invites a 57-year-old woman back to his home, becomes aggressive and tries to rape her.
November 2015: Carrick rapes a 45-year-old woman.
2016: Carrick is a suspect in a Hampshire Police investigation following an allegation of harassment. He is not arrested and the inquiry is later closed.
October 2016: Carrick repeatedly rapes and sexually abuses a woman he met online, in some cases causing injuries and urinating over her.
2017: Carrick should have been vetted after 10 years of service but is only now re-vetted and passes.
2017: Carrick is spoken to by Thames Valley Police officers after he is thrown out of a Reading nightclub for being drunk. He is not arrested and the matter is not referred to the Met.
March 2017: Carrick meets a woman on a night out, whom he goes on to rape multiple times and sexually abuse. She later describes him as totally controlling and aggressive and says he regularly urinated in her mouth, humiliated her and threatened her with violence.
2017: Carrick meets a woman on an online dating site who later says he raped her in the shower after dragging her in by her hair. She also describes being whipped with a belt and suffocated during sex.
July 2018: Carrick meets a 41-year-old woman online, whom he sexually assaults while she cleans his bathroom.
2019: Hertfordshire Police receive a third party report of assault and criminal damage involving an argument between Carrick and a woman during a domestic incident. He is said to have grabbed her by the neck.
Neither party is supportive of police involvement and no further action is taken after the case is looked at by the domestic abuse unit.
The incident is referred to the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards and Carrick is given words of advice in relation to informing his chain of command about off-duty incidents. It is determined he has no case to answer in relation to misconduct.
July 2020: Carrick meets a woman on an online dating site whom he goes on to rape, causing her injuries. He is verbally and physically aggressive, urinates on her and uses sex toys against her will.
July 2021: The woman reports being raped by Carrick. He is arrested by Hertfordshire Police over the allegation but no further action is taken after she withdraws the complaint.
The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards is made aware and Carrick is placed on restricted duties. It is determined he has no case to answer in relation to any misconduct and in September the restriction is lifted, although he never returns to full duties.
October 1 2021: A 50-year-old woman reports she was raped by Carrick in September 2020. He is arrested, charged and suspended by the Met.
October 4: Carrick is remanded in custody after appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with rape.
October 2021-October 2022: The publicity prompts another 12 women to come forward and make allegations against Carrick.
December 13 2022: Carrick pleads guilty to 43 offences at the Old Bailey. His pay is stopped by the Met.
January 16 2023: Carrick admits a further six charges at Southwark Crown Court.
January 17 2023: He is sacked by the Met following a special misconduct hearing.
February 6-7: Carrick is sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.
The suspected Epsom double-murder of Emma Pattison and her daughter Lettie was announced as an ‘isolated incident’ by police, sparking a backlash from women’s rights campaigners like myself who know all too well that violence against women and girls is nothing of the sort – it is an epidemic.
Femicide is never an isolated incident, it is the product of a patriarchal society in which men hold power over women. The line was soon updated to ‘no third party was involved’.
Men’s violence against women is a leading cause of premature death for women globally, whether that be from a complete stranger or the man they once loved and trusted. As Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, said, ‘You are only as safe as your male partner allows you to be’.
A photograph of the family of three was splashed across news outlets in the days following their murder. They were smiling, they looked content. Some activists criticised the use of this family photograph, saying it was unfair to portray them as a happy family considering the circumstances.
While I agree that there is an ethical problem in showing a photograph of two murder victims and their killer together, I wondered if this was the exact photo that the public needed to see.
Not another mugshot of a dishevelled man placed next to a photo of his victim – as we have sadly become accustomed to – but a photo that is so juxtaposed to the headline that it really sends the message that you never know what is going on behind closed doors.
We have since learned that the husband – believed to have killed her – was in contact with police just days before the shooting to update information on his gun licence. This time the police have referred themselves to the IOPC for investigation.
In Lancashire, my home county, the search for missing Nicola Bulley has reached the end of its second week.
Trust between the police and the public is fraught. Lancashire Constabulary was quick to announce that Nicola must have slipped into the river and that no third party was believed to be involved.
Their announcement led to searches by locals, outraged by the notion that the police didn’t appear to be taking seriously the potential for foul-play.
Some vigilantes were criticised by the police for breaking into abandoned properties in the area, searching for Nicola. While it is irresponsible for people to hinder a police investigation by taking matters into their own hands, if police were clear that they were still considering all possibilities surrounding her disappearance, then the public might have had more faith.
It was uplifting to know that so many people from my local area cared about Nicola, even though they had never met. But it was disheartening to witness a police force seemingly rule out the possibility that she had been abducted or treat the area as a potential crime scene.
We still don’t have many answers – the extensive searches of the water have found nothing – and I hope for the sake of her family that a conclusion is soon reached, but even when it is, the police will need to work hard at rebuilding their reputation among locals.
How many missing, murdered or abused women must it take for police to learn from their mistakes?
Not only do victims suffer at the hands of violent men, but they are continually suffering from a system that doesn’t seem to take their plight as seriously as it should.
The police should be our protectors and support system, and while there are so many wonderful officers out there doing incredible work, I can’t help but feel that the entire body is in need of an overhaul.
Gone is the window for apologies, now is the time to kick down the door and rebuild women’s trust in the police – using deeds not words.
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