Sussex Police is among the forces in the UK which have been accused of failing victims of domestic abuse allegedly perpetuated by police officers.
The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) has this week submitted a super-complaint to the police inspectorate highlighting what it calls ‘systemic failures’ women face when reporting such abuse.
The complaint draws on 19 cases of women’s experiences from 15 police forces across the country – including Sussex.
Women who report such cases have ‘very little trust or confidence’ in the police when they seek help because their abuser is part of the system intended to protect them, according to the CWJ.
One of the victims included in the super-complaint said: “I felt incredibly let down by the police, I felt that I was being made a victim a second time, I hope something good will come out of the super-complaint to help other women in the future.”
One woman said her partner threatened to get her thrown into prison if she reported him, while another said her ex-partner told her: “I’m a police officer, no one’s going to believe you.”
Another woman discovered her written statement to the police had been given to her husband, who was the suspect. No prosecution took place and she was told her statement was not filed in police systems and there was no record of it.
While a woman police officer who had reported her ex-husband was asked if she would be happy to have her daughter interviewed and be responsible for her father losing his job.
The super-complaint says a common feature of the cases it has looked into is the potential for manipulation and abuse of systems in the suspect’s favour.
Nogah Ofer, who is a solicitor at the CWJ, said, “We are 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 CWJ says among its shocking findings was evidence from domestic abuse professionals who are aware of officers believed to be perpetrators of domestic abuse working in public protection work and dealing with vulnerable victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
There were also examples of police officers stalking women in their police vehicles, evidence being ignored and statements not being taken.
CWJ is calling on the bodies responsible for oversight of the police service to take robust action to improve the experiences and outcomes for women.
The charity is seeking a super-complaint investigation into this pattern of failings and has proposed some system changes, such as having all investigations carried out by a neighbouring police force, and greater involvement by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said, “We understand a complaint has been made to HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary) and we will support the investigation in providing information which they may require.
“We actively encourage greater reporting of those crimes with the potential to cause the most harm including domestic abuse, sexual offences and stalking and harassment and we have a robust system in place for identifying vulnerability at first contact and prioritising resource.”
The super-complaint system was launched in 2018 to allow designated organisations to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing. This is the second complaint submitted by CWJ.
To find out more about it, visit centreforwomensjustice.org.uk