Police recruits with links to domestic abuse and sex offenders ‘still being appointed’

Posted: 11th May 2023

Source: The Guardian

England and Wales watchdog says vetting processes inadequate in 13 cases over two-month period, despite overhaul.

Police officers with links to organised crime, sex offenders and domestic abuse have made it through vetting procedures in recent months despite an overhaul of the process following the murder of Sarah Everard, according to the police watchdog for England and Wales.

In a letter to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, HM inspector of constabulary, Matt Parr, said an examination of vetting files over two months found concerns about multiple new recruits.

They included:

  • An officer with a history of domestic abuse against multiple partners.
  • An officer with a connection to a criminal gang.
  • An officer who had a family member who was a registered sex offender.
  • An officer who had a family member who had been jailed for drug dealing.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) examined 300 vetting files between 1 December 2022 and 31 January 2023 and found 13 were of concern.

The letter, published today, states: “In all 13 cases, we disagreed with the vetting decisions. We weren’t satisfied that the forces involved had adequately considered the risks associated with appointing the applicants. We were left with substantial questions about the wisdom of appointing them.”

In at least three cases forces have withdrawn or suspended vetting clearance after concerns were raised by the HMICFRS, it added.

The findings come after an initial report on vetting, published in November, found that poor vetting procedures and failures of leadership had allowed potentially thousands of “predatory” officers to join the police. The report was ordered after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 by a serving Metropolitan police officer, Wayne Couzens.

Responding to the progress report, Braverman said she had launched the second phase of the Angiolini inquiry into Everard’s rape and murder, which is being chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini, formerly Scotland’s top prosecutor.

Braverman said vetting had to be “beyond reproach in every single police force across the country”.

The HMICFRS update said there had been “some improvements since our inspection, but not all forces can demonstrate acceptable progress on some recommendations”. It added that the report made nine vetting-related recommendations to each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales and estimated that 73% had or were likely to be addressed by the deadlines set.

Braverman said: “Good progress is being made, but there can be no excuses and I expect all forces to redouble their efforts to implement all of the Inspectorate’s recommendations by the deadlines set.

“The government is driving forward work to improve culture, standards and behaviour across policing – including reviewing the process to dismiss officers who fall far short – and I will continue to hold forces to account to restore public trust in the profession.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said “swift and robust action” had been taken since the initial report, adding: “It is only right that police forces are held to account and we thank HMICFRS for its ongoing scrutiny. We will now examine the review’s findings in detail and address the issues raised.”

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “For people with histories of domestic abuse, sexual offences and links to criminal organisations to still be serving officers is appalling and it is shameful that this Conservative government is still failing to introduce or enforce the highest standards across policing.”

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