Failure to take abuse seriously empowers police perpetrators, says Commissioner

The Angiolini Inquiry, an independent inquiry into how an off-duty Metropolitan police officer was able to abduct, rape and murder a member of the public, has published its Part I report findings today. The report is the first of three that will be published by Lady Elish Angiolini.

In response to the report, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, says: “Lady Angiolini’s findings are seriously damning. That major concerns were repeatedly ignored is a disgrace.

“Police recruitment, vetting and investigation of allegations against police officers clearly fall far below the very basic expectations. That the Met say Couzens would still have passed vetting even if an allegation of indecent exposure had been taken into account shows that these procedures are fundamentally flawed.

“The cultural and procedural failure of policing to take violence against women and girls seriously empowers perpetrators like Couzens and allows them to thrive in police forces.

“This is not just a Met issue. Police perpetrated violence against women and girls must be eradicated from every force in the country. That requires strong leadership from every constabulary and from the Home Secretary.

“I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that police officers charged with certain crimes will be automatically suspended. It will be a shock to many that this wasn’t the case all along.

“But we can and must go further today. There is an opportunity right in front of government to make these changes through its own criminal justice bill going through parliament now.

“Forces should be required through the Bill to hold mandatory, extensive and regular vetting, and robust measures must be introduced to ensure police under investigation for violence against women and girls cannot use their powers to cause further harm.

“We can have no more empty words. The inquiry is clear that another Couzens could be hiding in plain sight. The time for serious transformation is now.

“I wholeheartedly support Elish Angiolini’s sixteen recommendations for a step change in police culture, recruitment, vetting and investigation of allegations. Failure to act now will only mean allowing another tragedy to happen.”

Part I of the Angiolini Inquiry is online here.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is calling for:

  • Implementation of regulations mandating more extensive vetting procedures for all staff and officers. These processes should be undertaken more regularly, at least every 5 years at a minimum, and any time an officer is transferred. 
  • Vetting must also look at a wider range of intelligence sources, such as the Police National Database (PND), to catch perpetrators at an earlier stage and create a power for people who fail police vetting to be fired. 
  • More robust measures must be implemented where an officer is accused of violence against women and girls, including action to prevent them from using their position to cause any further harm whilst they are being investigated.