Met Police: Women and children failed by ‘boys’ club’, review finds

Posted: 21st March 2023

Baroness Casey says a “boys’ club” culture is rife and the force could be dismantled if it does not improve.

Her year-long review condemns systemic failures, painting a picture of a force where rape cases were dropped because freezers containing key evidence broke.

The Met’s Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has apologised to Londoners.

He said: “It is ghastly. You sit down and read that report and it generates a whole series of emotions. It generates anger, frustration, embarrassment.”

Baroness Casey was appointed to review the force’s culture and standards after the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens, in 2021.

During the course of her review, another Met officer, David Carrick, was convicted of a series of rapes, sexual offences and torture of women.

The report begins with a tribute to Sarah Everard’s mother and a quote from her victim impact statement, given in court. It says “those crimes and those betrayals of trust” led to this review.

The 363-page report condemns the force as institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic. Staff routinely experience sexism, it adds. There are racist officers and staff, and a “deep-seated homophobia” in the organisation.

But Sir Mark told Radio 4’s Today programme that while he accepted the “diagnosis” of the report he would not use the expression “institutional racism”, describing it as ambiguous and politicised.

He said “hundreds” of “problematic” officers have been identified since he took over the force, and said the report has to be “a new beginning”.

Baroness Casey says policing by consent – the idea ordinary people trust the police to act honourably and be held accountable – is broken in London.

Londoners have been “put last” and the city “no longer has a functioning neighbourhood policing service”. The problem is more acute for ethnic minorities, the report found, warning “communities of colour are both over-policed and under-protected”.

The report says leadership teams at the top of the Met have been in denial for decades, and there has been a systemic failure to root out discriminatory and bullying behaviour.

The force, it says, has failed to protect the public from officers who abuse women.

Asked if there could be more officers like Couzens and Carrick still within the force, Baroness Casey said: “I cannot sufficiently assure you that that is not the case.”

Discrimination “is often ignored” and complaints “are likely to be turned against” ethnic minority officers, to the point where black officers are 81% more likely to be in the misconduct system than white colleagues, the report adds.

“Attempts to improve diversity in the Met are not succeeding,” Baroness Casey says in the report. “The Met’s response to discrimination is wholly unsatisfactory.

“Deep in its culture it is uncomfortable talking about racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of discrimination.”

The report also reveals:

  • Dilapidated fridges were repeatedly found overpacked and how, during last summer’s heatwave, a freezer broke down – all of the evidence inside had to be destroyed, meaning cases of alleged rape were dropped
  • Discrimination towards female colleagues; bags of urine being thrown at cars; male officers flicking each other’s genitals; and sex toys being placed in coffee mugs
  • How a review heard about initiation rituals, including people being urinated on in the shower
  • One Sikh officer had his beard trimmed; while another had his turban put in a shoe box; and a Muslim officer found bacon in his boots
  • Almost one in five of Met employees surveyed had personally experienced homophobia

Baroness Casey says she accepted the Met had been “disfigured” by what she described as a decade of austerity and funding cuts.

Pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on courts and an expanding London population are also citied as “significant challenges” for the Met.

But she says she felt not enough had changed since the 1999 Macpherson report, published after the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, which labelled the Met “institutionally racist” – a problem the force is “yet to free itself from”.

“That’s not on Cressida Dick,” Baroness Casey told reporters – acknowledging Sir Mark’s predecessor as the force’s commissioner, who resigned last year.

“That’s on every commissioner and a lot of politicians. It is rot when you treat Londoners in a racist fashion, that goes over a long period of time,” she wrote.

The review made 16 recommendations and said changes were needed to “create a radically improved new London Metropolitan Police Service”.

It calls for greater independent oversight, outside experts to be drafted in, regular progress updates overseen by the mayor and an immediate overhaul of vetting in order to “guard against those who intend to abuse the power of a police officer”.

To regain Londoners’ trust, the Met must rebuild its frontline police service, open itself up to comprehensive investigations in two and five years’ time, and establish a process to “apologise for past failings and rebuild consent”.

Baroness Casey said the scale of required reforms were on a par with the transformation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, into the PSNI, in 2001.

She said the specialist Parliamentary Protection Diplomatic Command department – the team Couzens had been a member of – should be disbanded in its current form, and firearms officers re-vetted.

The report said a dedicated women’s protection service needed to be set up, and called for a broad new strategy for protecting children, including preventing the “adultification” of young people who are regarded as “threats rather than children who need protection from harm”.

While domestic abuse cases have doubled in 10 years, the teams tasked with tackling the problem are understaffed, overworked and inexperienced. The Met has not made its publicly-stated policy to crack down on abusers an “operational reality”, the report found.

It also said there should be a fundamental reset of stop and search in London, including the introduction of an independent monitor to assess its use.

Baroness Casey concluded: “If sufficient progress is not being made at the points of further review, more radical structural options – such as dividing up the Met into national, specialist and London responsibilities – should be considered.”

Asked if he would tell his daughters they could trust the police, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I need the answer to that question to be ‘yes’ and at the moment trust in the police has been hugely damaged.”

Pressed on whether that extended to himself, he told BBC Breakfast it was “everyone’s trust” that had been put under strain.

The PM said reforms were already under way, including checking all serving officers against police databases, and gave Sir Mark Rowley his vote of confidence.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said today was “one of the darkest days in the 200-year history” of the Met but said the report did not surprise him as it chimed with his own personal and professional experiences.

Systemic issues needed to be addressed if the Met was to have a future, he added, but insisted the force did not need to be broken up.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said it was clear there have been serious failures of culture and leadership in the Met and Sir Mark had been working to restore public confidence.

Source: Met Police: Women and children failed by ‘boys’ club’, review finds – BBC News

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