A Metropolitan Police sex crimes unit put pressure on women to retract allegations of rape, including against a man who went on to murder two children, the police watchdog said Tuesday.
The Sapphire Unit in Southwark, south London, had a “standard operating procedure” in 2008 and 2009 of encouraging the retraction of rape allegations so that no crime was recorded, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said.
This enabled them to improve their detection statistics, because the percentage of recorded crimes that were solved appeared higher.
The commission noted a report in 2011 of “rape involving threats of violence, which was neither recorded nor investigated”.
The man accused of this rape, Jean Say, went on to kill his son and daughter.
Despite the woman’s account of the rape, a detective sergeant said she had “consented” to sex and no crime would be recorded or investigated.
Deborah Glass, the commission’s deputy chairwoman, said: “There’s no doubt this was an incredibly serious, shocking incident. We know with all the cases that we’ve dealt with that the consequences of not dealing with allegations of rape can be extremely serious. This is yet another tragic illustration of that.”
Sapphire is a London-wide unit investigating sexual violence, and this report — one of several into Sapphire — focused on the Southwark branch.
Women in Southwark alleging rape were questioned by a detective constable before speaking to a specialist officer, in defiance of Met police policy that says alleged victims should be believed unless evidence shows otherwise.
The overall Sapphire unit was brought under central Metropolitan Police command in 2009 after a series of incidents including a failure to fully investigate two women’s reports of sexual assault against serial rapist and black cab driver John Worboys, who was left free to commit more crimes.
Detective Constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow of the Southwark unit was jailed for 16 months in October 2012 for failing to investigate rape and sexual assault claims in another case, while a second officer, based in Islington, north London, is still under criminal investigation.
A total of 19 officers from across London have been disciplined, including three who were fired.
Glass said: “The pressure to meet targets as a measure of success, rather than focusing on the outcome for the victim, resulted in the police losing sight of what policing is about — protecting the public and deterring and detecting crime.”
Despite positive changes to the unit, “there is more to be done”, Glass said.
Scotland Yard acknowledged that some rape investigations had previously been “below standard.”
“The activities identified in this report came during that era and highlight specific issues within Southwark which resulted in unacceptable actions by local officers,” it said in a statement.
“It is as a result of such failings that we have made substantial changes to the investigation of rape and serious sexual assault, both in terms of structure and revised working practices.”