Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by Women Against Rape [IPCC 04]

We are submitting evidence to the Select Committee on the IPCC. We would like to give oral evidence about our findings since 2009 and our proposals for change.

Summary of our Main Points

We are told that complaints about rape investigations have increased, but the IPCC has not released figures about the numbers, nor details of the outcomes of IPCC investigations.

The IPCC claims officers can refuse to be interviewed and they have no power to insist. Disciplinary measures are weak and ineffective.

Complainants are tricked into giving consent to “local resolution”.

In our experience, the IPCC is totally discredited and not independent of the police, and it mostly rubber-stamps what they have done.

Brief Introduction to WAR

WAR was founded in 1976. A multiracial organization, we have won many changes in the law, including the recognition of rape in marriage as a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. Our services are based on self-help and we provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence. Our legal skills and campaigning have helped get some prosecutions reinstated. We have also helped to bring and win the first ever private prosecution for rape in England and Wales after the CPS refused to prosecute a serial rapist—he was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years. Based on our first hand knowledge we are often asked to comment on legislative proposals, and the outcome of investigations and trials. We have wide experience of the ways in which the police discriminate against rape victims and how the IPCC allows them to get away with it.

BackgroundWhy we are an Interested Party

In recent years, we have assisted thousands of women rape survivors; many have made complaints about police investigations and prosecutions discontinued by the CPS. We have accompanied dozens of women to meetings with the police and CPS. We have encouraged and helped many women to complain to the IPCC, but the results have generally been very disappointing. Most complaints are not upheld, reports are inaccurate, and the complainant is told her complaint is “unsubstantiated” wherever she has no independent witness.

In 2009, at the same time as the Warboys and Reid cases came to light, we were supporting a mother whose under-age daughter was raped in 2005. Her rapist was acquitted, after police lost evidence—there is evidence that he has raped others. Because we sought publicity and the backing of the local MP, the complaints resulted in an unusually in-depth and damning IPCC report into the Southwark Sapphire Unit. It found the Unit had been run down to such a degree that it had no trained detectives, a PC with no experience and a ridiculous caseload of approx 35 rapes had been left to investigate this rape.

The IPCC investigation found the Unit had moved its rape officers into car crime and street robbery. Effectively, car theft was prioritized over rape, and despite the protests of a woman detective internally, the unit did not improve. Three officers were eventually disciplined, but the head of the Unit, who was responsible for setting out priorities and depleting the rape unit, refused to be interviewed in person and retired. Despite a very strong IPCC report which vindicated the complainant, no sanction was recommended against him, yet he had the major responsibility for rapists getting away with it. The sanctions against the other officers were insufficient. That is no way to demand accountability and bring change.

That this IPCC report is unusually thorough indicates that the IPCC only pays attention to the complainant if she is backed by an organisation, her MP and the media. That is totally unacceptable and very worrying. What scrutiny of police actions can we expect from such a body? What prospects do victims have of getting protection and justice?

After these watershed cases, we asked to meet with the IPCC, as we were inundated with complaints from survivors.

On 1 December 2009 we met with Amardeep Somal and Maneer Afzal at the IPCC, and we submit our correspondence with them as evidence for your Committee to consider.1 You will see the issues addressed cover the main areas you are looking into.

We are particularly concerned that your Committee is made aware that the IPCC response to our letter is evasive and defensive, and that the main issues are not properly addressed.

Since we have not been able to get the IPCC to deal with public complaints appropriately and to impose adequate sanctions on police who do negligent and biased investigations, falsify records, and break the law in other ways, we are having to challenge the police in a number of path-breaking legal actions.

We would like to give oral evidence to this Committee. We would also like to know who has been invited to give evidence.

Lisa Longstaff
Women Against Rape

June 2012

1 Not printed.

Prepared 1st February 2013