Women who suffer domestic violence at the hands of police officers were ‘doubly powerless’ against a system which ‘condones and trivialises violence against women’, according to a legal charity. The Centre for Women’s Justice has submitted a super-complaint to the Police Inspectorate drawing on the experiences of 46 different women across a number of police forces in England and Wales calling for systemic changes in the way women are treated when they report domestic abuse and sexual violence by a police officer.
The super-complaint mechanism was established in 2018 and it allows systemic policing issues which significantly harm the interests of the public and span multiple police forces to be identified. The Home Office approves which organisations are able to use the mechanism. The Centre for Women’s Justice has previously made a super-complaint on police failures to use protective measures in cases involving violence against women and girls.
We have been approached by another 30 women today who have been abused by members of police force and let down. This is on top of the 46 who already have been in touch with us. Not a small number! @MishalHusain @BBCr4today https://t.co/MVyrM4lj02
— Centre for Women's Justice (@centreWJ) March 9, 2020
The super-complaint, which draws in the work o the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (here), accuses police forces of harbouring a ‘locker-room culture’ by protecting abusers in their ranks from facing justice. Women are deterred from reporting by officers, and when they do, there are serious failings in the investigation. The report includes a number of case studies. One woman was bullied into not reporting when her partner said: ‘I’m a police officer, no one is going to believe you.’ In other cases where women did report, the police failed to contact witnesses or obtain vital evidence.
These cases are currently investigated by the same police force which employs the accused officer. Behind the scenes, the report states, personal connections between officers are ‘criss-crossing’. According to the group, women report feeling manipulated and let down.
Nogah Ofer, solicitor at the Centre for Women’s Justice, said that they were ‘concerned about a locker-room culture that trivialises violence against women, where loyalty towards fellow officers and concern about impact on their careers may be getting in the way of justice for women who report abuse’.
The report presents data from a Freedom of Information request showing that just 3.9% of police officers facing criminal reports are convicted, and on misconduct investigations against police officers, no further action is taken on an overwhelming 76.3% of reports. The super-complaint calls for new procedures to ensure greater protections and better outcomes for women in this position. One of these procedures is the establishment of an independent hotline to report domestic violence perpetrated by officers. The need for separation between the investigators and the accused is also highlighted. It is suggested that neighbouring police forces should carry out the investigation as a matter of course.
The Centre for Women’s Justice has reported being contacted by more women since the super-complaint was released.