Dozens of sexual assault claims against Hertfordshire police officers over five years

The data does not specify if the officers were on or off duty at the time the alleged incidents occurred.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 10:14 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 10:16 am

Dozens of allegations of sexual assault were made against serving police officers in Hertfordshire over five years, figures reveal.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there is “a massive job” to be done in restoring women’s confidence in police after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

Figures obtained by RADAR under the Freedom of Information Act show 27 sexual assault complaints were made against Hertfordshire Constabulary officers between 2016 and 2020.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

The data does not specify if the officers were on or off duty at the time the alleged incidents occurred.

The sex of the person making the accusation was also unknown in each case.

Responses from 33 police forces across Great Britain revealed that most claims over five years related to male officers, where their sex was recorded.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire police said: "Hertfordshire Constabulary requires the highest levels of integrity from our officers and staff and when someone fails to meet this standard, we take the appropriate action.

"If claims are made against our officers, a thorough investigation will be carried out by an independent force irrespective of who the offender is.

"The Professional Standards Department (PSD) prioritise sexual offence allegations against police officers.

"PSD, working in conjunction with the IOPC, investigates officers where officer conduct has or is likely to have breached the standards of professional behaviour.

"In the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard, and the gross abuse of power exhibited by her killer, it is only right that the police service as a whole should be subjected to closer scrutiny.

"Our thoughts continue to be with Sarah’s family and friends who have had to endure a nightmare since she was taken from them.

"They have remained dignified and strong throughout, but we can only imagine the pain that they will continue to suffer.

"Sarah’s killer will never be free to pose a threat to any woman or girl ever again and his wicked actions have provoked feelings of great anger, sadness and shock among those working in policing.

"He betrayed every single police officer and staff member who have dedicated their working lives to preventing crime and keeping people safe.

"We recognise damage he will have caused to communities’ confidence in policing, and we are certain that the service nationally will learn from what has happened.

"He is however in no way reflective of policing generally and we as an organisation remain absolutely committed to protecting women and girls from violence and abuse, and keeping our streets safe for everyone."

The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which includes groups like Rape Crisis, Refuge and Women's Aid, said few officers face "any meaningful consequences" for violence against women and girls nationally.

The organisation said the murder of Ms Everard took place within a broader context of violence perpetrated by the police, adding that trust in forces from women and girls was now at an all-time low.

Deputy director Denzi Uğur said: "We need to see a radical overhaul of how the police respond to violence against women – especially within their own ranks.

"This means greater accountability and urgent, coordinated and strategic action to address violence against women.

"Ultimately, we need to address these widespread institutional failings before we can even begin to address women’s confidence in the police."

The data from Hertfordshire Constabulary was in response to a request for the number of complaints of sexual assaults against serving police officers.

It covered public complaints and internal conduct matters, which include those raised by members of the police against their colleagues.

Complaints could relate to historic allegations.

Of the cases against officers in the force between 2016 and 2020, 19 came from the members of the public and five from colleagues.

The source of three ongoing complaints was not given.

The Prime Minister has called for a change in the culture of policing following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.

It emerged that Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 – but was still able to transfer from Kent Police to the Metropolitan force.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating both forces for their handling of Couzens.

The body holds an oversight of the entire police complaints system and investigates the most serious police misconduct matters.

A spokesperson said: "The abuse of police powers for purposes of sexual exploitation, or violence, has a devastating impact on victims, and a serious impact on the public’s confidence in individual officers and the service in general.

"It is critical there are effective systems in place to prevent, monitor and deal swiftly with any individual who exploits that trust."

Home Secretary Priti Patel this week launched an independent inquiry into the "systematic failures" by police following the murder of Ms Everard.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Secretary is determined to do everything in her power to deliver improvements within policing and across the criminal justice system.

“The inquiry will look into wider issues across policing – including vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

“As the public would rightly expect, we take police integrity very seriously and have already taken steps to overhaul the police complaints and discipline systems."

The inquiry has been welcomed by the National Police Chief's Council chairman, Martin Hewitt, who said vetting and professional standards procedures needed to be scrutinised to restore public confidence.

"I think having an independent inquiry is a very good way for that to be to be dealt with to really help us provide that reassurance," he added.