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The rape detection rate is so low in London it “may as well” be legal, a Met Police officer told Baroness Louise Casey’s review into the force. The probe, commissioned in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, lays bare a series of damning concerns about the way sexual cases have been handled by the Metropolitan Police.
This includes a lunchbox being found in a fridge in which rape samples were being kept that would have contaminated the evidence, according to the review.
An unnamed officer told the review: “If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it’s legal in London.
“It’s kind of reflective of how we treat and view our female colleagues.”
The report notes there were more than 9,000 reported rapes in 2022-23, up 244 percent on 2012-13. Sixteen thousand other sexual offences were reported over the same period, a rise of 152 percent.
The clear-up rate for these crimes was nine percent in 2022-23, having fallen 16 percent since 2012-13.
One rape victim was told she “should and could have done more” to protect herself, according to the report.
Among a slew of damning findings, the report notes London “no longer has a functioning neighbourhood policing service” and the “de-prioritisation and de-specialisation of public protection has put women and children at greater risk than necessary”.
This has left an “overworked, inexperienced workforce” investigating child protection, rape and serious sexual offences cases.
The force’s violence against women and girls strategy “rings hollow” and those investigating domestic abuse have “unmanageable caseloads” and there is poor support for victims, according to the report.
The child protection service continues to have “major inadequacies”, despite a watchdog issuing the most severely critical report in its history on the issue in 2016.
Structural changes reducing 32 borough-based commands to 12 units covering up to four boroughs has weakened links between officers and the community, the report finds.
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Another unnamed officer, who worked in the Met’s sex offences unit, told the review she had lost count of the number of times crucial evidence in rape cases had been lost.
She said freezers holding evidence from survivors of sexual violence, such as blood, urine and swabs, could be so full it would take three officers to shut them.
The officer said all fridges used for rape kits were in poor shape with evidence often ruined. In the 2022 heatwave, she said one of the freezers broke down, meaning all the evidence had to be destroyed as it could no longer be used.
She said an email sent to officers meant all those alleged rape cases would have to be dropped.
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The report also said female officers and staff routinely face sexism and misogyny.
It said: “The Met has not protected its female employees or members of the public from police perpetrators of domestic abuse, nor those who abuse their position for sexual purposes.
“Despite the Met saying violence against women and girls is a priority, it has been treated differently from ‘serious violence’.
“In practice this has meant it has not been taken as seriously in terms of resourcing and prioritisation.”
The force has lurched from scandal to scandal in recent years, including Sarah Everard’s murder by serving officer Wayne Couzens and David Carrick being unmasked as one of the UK’s most prolific sex offenders.
The review painted an alarming picture of how crimes against women and children are investigated.
Separate research, cited in the report, highlighted inexperienced staff, significant resourcing gaps, ineffective training material and impossible caseloads.
It also highlighted “sloppy investigations with multiple missed opportunities and under-identification of repeat offenders”.
The report called for a “complete overhaul” of the Met and a “new approach to restore public trust and confidence”.
The review made 16 recommendations and said the changes need to be made by the Met, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Home Office to “create a radically improved new London Metropolitan Police Service”.
The reforms are of a “significant scale” and “on a par” with the “transformation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland” at the end of the last century.
Baroness Casey said if the force does not reform, it could face being broken up in future.
Sir Mark Rowley, who leads the Met Police, described the findings as “deeply worrying”, adding you cannot read the report and not be “upset, embarrassed and humbled”.
He told Sky News: “I absolutely accept the diagnosis that Louise Casey comes up with. We have racists, misogynists and homophobes in the organisation.
“And it’s not just about individuals. We have systemic failings, management failings and cultural failings.”
Sir Mark added: “We’ve got toxic individuals, some of whom who’ve got concerns about their predatory behaviour. We’ve got people suspended. We’ve got people under investigation. We are rooting them out of this organisation.”
Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), Rape Crisis and the End Violence Against Women Coalition have called for urgent changes to the UK’s largest police service after the scathing review.
CWJ, a legal charity that campaigns for victims of male violence, said the review “confirms a culture which not only tolerates but fosters many of the worst forms of criminal abuse from within its ranks and reveals shocking treatment of forensic evidence gathering in sexual violence investigations”.
A spokesman added: “As an organisation that works with victims of male violence and police abuse, the rats’ nest that has been laid to bare provides an explanation for the repeated dreadful stories we hear from the many women who have contacted us.
“It is utterly shameful that women and children have been failed as the report highlights.”
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