A report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct in 2021 found that abuse of powers for a sexual purpose was the largest form of corruption in police forces in England and Wales, and that these referrals had doubled since 2016.
Police sexual misconduct is a current common topic of conversation with the conviction of Metropolitan Police officers David Carrick and re-sentencing of Wayne Couzens being heavily publicised.
In March 2021, Wayne Couzens, a former Metropolitan parliamentary and diplomatic protection police officer, kidnapped, raped, and murdered Sarah Everard. Since then, other victims of Couzens have come forward, leading to Couzens receiving life imprisonment with no chance of parole.
In February 2022, David Carrick, who also worked in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, was convicted of 49 sexual offences against 12 women over two decades. Carrick was given 36 life sentences at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to 85 offences and was told he would not be eligible to apply for parole for 30 years. Carrick has been repeatedly described as ‘’a serial rapist and violent sexual predator’’, who used the power and control of being a police officer to stop his victims reporting him.
A report by Baroness Casey was released this week that investigates the standards of behaviour and internal culture of the Metropolitan Police Service. The Casey Review found that the Metropolitan Police has failed to protect the public from officers who abuse women. Baroness Casey states that Carrick and Couzens were not one-offs, but are symptomatic of how profound and serious the Met’s failings were allowed to become. It criticises how sexist, racist and misogynist the culture of the Met is. She has recommended a series of reforms.
Victims of sexual offences by police officers may wish to seek justice in both the criminal and the civil courts. It may not be enough for them that the perpetrator has been sent to prison. A victim may wish to direct a civil claim against the police officer's police force, who they may hold accountable.
A police force may be held liable in two circumstances:
1. Under the doctrine of ‘’Vicarious Liability’’
Vicarious liability is a legal rule which assigns liability to an employer for their employee’s acts performed in the course of employment or other duty.
However, ‘performed in their employment’ is flexible. For example, even though the crime occurred whilst the perpetrator was off duty, it may be considered that they would not have been able to gain significant power over the victim if they did not have the knowledge, social power, tools and skills that a police officer has.
For example, a police officer may use the knowledge they had gained in their role as a police officer to trick their victim to make an unlawful or fake arrest.
2. In the Law of Negligence
Another way a police force may be held liable for the criminal conduct of a police officer may be in the law of Negligence. For example, in the case of David Carrick, the Met police force admitted errors in failing to spot Carrick’s rocketing danger during his 20 years of service. The Metropolitan Police were told about nine incidents from 2000 to 2021, including eight alleged attacks or clashes Carrick had with women before the arrest that led to his convictions.
Yet, instead of acting on these ‘red flags’ Carrick was promoted and gained further power that he abused.
In the Wayne Couzens’ case, Couzens’ admitted to three counts of indecent exposure in February 2023. One of those offences was committed and reported only four days before murdering Sarah Everard.
With the Couzens and Carrick cases being heavily publicised it is hoped that more survivors will come forward and report their allegations of sexual abuse by serving police officers, to the police.
It is appreciated and acknowledged that many such victims may still feel inhibited from reporting sexual misconduct /violence by a police officer to his police force, who must then fairly and objectively investigate one of their own.
Festus Akinbusoye, the PCC for Bedfordshire has stated the force is taking proactive steps to ensure allegations are respected and that he is holding his county’s chief constable ‘’accountable every single month’’, which is what many other PCCs are now doing.
In a civil claim, it is helpful if the police officer is convicted in the criminal courts, as in the cases of Couzens and Carrick. Therefore, if you are looking to pursue a civil compensation claim against a police force for sexual assaults you have suffered at the hands of a police officer, you should report the matter to the police first.
Should you happen to be the victim of sexual offences by a police officer for which they have been found guilty, and wish to obtain advice about financial compensation routes of justice, please feel free to contact us. As a specialist firm with a depth of experience in sexual abuse compensation claims, we will do our best to try and assist you.