Thursday, October 09, 2014

68 rape cases re-opened after British police incorrectly concluded no crime had been committed as scores of officers warned they may face disciplinary action

Police are to reopen 68 rape investigations where officers dismissed allegations that should have been pursued, it emerged yesterday.

A review by Northumbria Police found that 54 allegations of rape were not investigated properly, possibly allowing sexual abusers to go unpunished.

And Cleveland Police is reopening 14 rape investigations after an audit by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) revealed similar problems with the way its officers had dealt with allegations.

The officers have been told they could face disciplinary action.

Rape charities said it was extremely worrying that so many cases had been handled incorrectly. The reinvestigations by Northumbria and Cleveland highlight growing concern that the problem may be widespread.

Earlier this year HMIC criticised South Yorkshire Police for its ‘unacceptable’ handling of serious sexual crimes.

In 2010 a rapist Northumbria policeman who attacked up to 30 women during a five-year reign of terror was jailed.

PC Stephen Mitchell, 44, assaulted drug addicts in the cells and interview rooms of a city-centre police station, knowing that if they complained they were unlikely to be believed.

One of them, a 19-year-old drug addict when he first struck, estimated she had been abused 100 times as he kept track of her using the police computer.

Yet his colleagues ignored a series of warnings about his behaviour – some of them from his own wife. They were unaware that he had already stood trial for sex offences before he was recruited to the force.

He was eventually sacked in 2007 for having ‘consensual’ sex with one of his victims, only to be reinstated on appeal eight months later.

And when he was finally stopped, a senior detective with Northumbria Police offered him ‘a get out of jail free card’ if he agreed to resign. He refused, opting to take his chances in court.

Mitchell – a tall, muscular former soldier – was found guilty of two rapes, three indecent assaults and six charges of misconduct in a public office, involving a total of seven women.

He was cleared of three further rape charges, two indecent assaults and counts of misconduct involving another nine women. But police suspect he attacked at least a further 14.

The watchdog found officers were put under pressure not to record rapes as crimes and police had spent a great deal of time trying to disprove the word of alleged victims.

It has also recently been revealed that nearly a quarter of rape allegations made to police in parts of London were never recorded as crimes in 2013.

An HMIC audit into the Northumbria force earlier this year found it may have incorrectly deemed 11 rape cases to be ‘no crime’, meaning that officers decided no law had been broken. After the audit the chief constable ordered a review of 153 allegations dating back to October 2011. Yesterday the force said it is to reinvestigate 54 of those cases.

A 50-year-old man from Newcastle upon Tyne has already been arrested and subsequently bailed in connection to an allegation that was previously downplayed by investigating officers.

Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson said the force had moved 48 officers from its rape investigations team to other units while the review was under way.

The officers were served with gross misconduct notices, which could result in disciplinary action following the investigation.

Potential victims who were initially told that rape had not been committed will now be contacted by officers, which police admitted could be stressful. Andrea Terrett, of Tyneside and Northumbria Rape Crisis Centre, said: ‘It is extremely worrying that victims have reported rapes and on investigation it is being stated that there has been no crime.

‘Only 10 per cent of rape victims that we help report to the police. But for these victims who have stepped forward, it is very disappointing and worrying for them to see that these cases have not been investigated properly.’

Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner, Vera Baird, described her ‘grave concerns’ when the HMIC report, which has yet to be made publicly available, flagged up the 11 suspect cases.

She said the report showed police did not take seriously cases where a female complainant had consumed a lot of alcohol, or those arising in a domestic setting.

Yesterday she said: ‘We took immediate action when the HMIC and, indeed, my office identified some rape ‘‘no crimes’’ of serious concern.’

Original report here


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