Sexual abuse by police officers
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Abuse involves the exploitation of an individual, who is often vulnerable in some way, by a person who holds a position of power or authority. This position of power or authority could be due to a difference in age, job role, or their position in society. When there are incidents of abuse, we are told to report them to the police in order for justice to be served. However, what is a vulnerable victim expected to do when the person who has abused their position of trust is a serving police officer themselves?
Following the publication of a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, it is clear this is exactly the case for hundreds of people in England and Wales. The report in question refers to 436 allegations of abuse of power for sexual gain within a two-year period. More than a third of these allegations of abuse of authority involve victims of domestic abuse. It has been reported that there is only one police force in the country which has not received any allegations of this nature within the period examined.
While the sheer volume of reports of abuse of power for sexual gain is shocking, the reality is that there will be many vulnerable people who have not felt able to report or disclose being a victim of sexual abuse by police officers. Therefore, the numbers released are likely to be significantly higher in reality.
Rachel Thain of Slee Blackwell’s abuse team says:
“These figures are extremely damaging to the faith the public has in the police. It is important that these issues are tackled in a determined and timely manner. Our police hold a special position of trust and authority and therefore have a greater responsibility to behave in a certain way. These figures hugely undermine this. We must remember that these figures do not reflect the behaviour of every police officer and those who have suffered a crime should still be encouraged to make a formal report. The punishment of officers found to be behaving in this manner should set an example that such individuals will not be tolerated within our justice system.”
Of particular concern is the impact this could have on cases where compensation for sexual abuse is claimed from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. When the CICA consider making an award of compensation to a victim of abuse they rely heavily upon information provided by the police. Where we have police officers who are willing to exploit their position of power in order to obtain sexual gain from vulnerable individuals, the way in which the CICA approaches these cases is potentially concerning. It will be interesting to see whether the CICA has any response to make in relation to this report, as our concern is that genuine victims who have suffered sexual abuse by police officers may have been prevented from obtaining CICA compensation.