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Revealed: Hundreds of police officers who slipped through net reprimanded in wake of Sarah Everard’s murder

The 461 officers were flagged in the nationwide checks of 307,452 officers, the largest ever integrity screening exercise undertaken by police (iStock/Getty)
The 461 officers were flagged in the nationwide checks of 307,452 officers, the largest ever integrity screening exercise undertaken by police (iStock/Getty)

Hundreds of police officers are being investigated in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder – with nine staff facing criminal probes.

The screening of officers, staff and volunteers comes in the wake of the Casey Review into the culture and standards in the Metropolitan Police, following Ms Everard’s murder by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens in 2021 – the first in a string of shocking crimes linked to rogue police.

A total of 461 officers and police staff who slipped through the net are being criminally investigated, revetted or facing disciplinary proceedings after being identified in a mass screening of police employees across the country – although campaigners have suggested the relatively low numbers “simply don’t stack up”.

Five police officers and four members of police staff are facing criminal inquiries, including over alleged sexual offences, theft, drug offences and fraud.

Meanwhile, some 88 are facing disciplinary investigations and have been referred to the police watchdog or a professional standards body. One officer is being probed over allegations about their sexual conduct, while one police staff member is being investigated over discriminatory conduct.

More than 65 per cent of the disciplinary investigations were launched into officers and staff at the Metropolitan Police, which is currently in special measures.

A further 139 police employees have been resubmitted for vetting in light of information found in their background checks.

During Baroness Casey’s inquiry – which found the force was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic – another Met officer, David Carrick, was unmasked as one of Britain’s worst sex offenders and jailed for 32 years for raping and abusing multiple women. Former officer Adam Provan was also jailed for 16 years for multiple rapes while serving at the Met.

Campaigner Anna Birley, of Reclaim These Streets, said it is “shocking” that these officers are only being identified almost three years after Ms Everard was kidnapped and murdered by a serving officer.

“That means there have been hundreds of officers at the end of the phone at people’s most terrifying moments who can’t be trusted,” she told The Independent.

“The number of officers shows it isn’t just a few bad apples. Staff who commit a crime or behave in a discriminatory or predatory way is only the tip of the iceberg – the bit we don’t see and the bit these numbers don’t tell us is how many of their colleagues knew there was a problem.

“And that is a cultural problem that can’t be fixed by screening a database. It requires institutional reform.”

Sarah Everard was raped and killed as she walked home in south London on 3 March 2021 (PA Media)
Sarah Everard was raped and killed as she walked home in south London on 3 March 2021 (PA Media)

The 461 officers were flagged in the nationwide checks of 307,452 officers, the largest-ever integrity screening exercise undertaken by police, led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Forces’ said “management intervention” was needed for 128 officers and staff flagged in the screening – which could mean the use of existing professional standards practices such as requiring officers to submit business interests for further consideration. A total of 97 required no further action.

Other cases deemed less serious were reviewed internally by forces but they were not required to provide the numbers to the NPCC.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which published a police super-complaint in 2020 over police-perpetrated domestic abuse, noted the findings were lower than expected.

It comes after the Met Police said last year it was re-examining 1,131 past allegations in the category of sexual or domestic abuse against women alone.

CWJ director Harriet Wistrich said the figures “simply do not stack up”.

“The outcome that only a tiny number of police officers from across the country have been found to require further investigation does not accord with recent findings within the Met police alone as revealed in the Baroness Casey report and Operation Onyx,” she added.

“Neither does it accord with the evidence we have collected from women who have come forward to CWJ following our police super-complaint submitted in March 2020.

“The explanation for such a virtually clean bill of health must lie in the significant problems in the collection of data that the police themselves have identified.”

Wayne Couzens received a whole life order for the murder of Sarah Everard (PA)
Wayne Couzens received a whole life order for the murder of Sarah Everard (PA)

There was widespread condemnation of the police response to a vigil for Ms Everard organised by Reclaim These Streets in the weeks after her death. However, campaign group founder Ms Birley does not feel there has been significant progress on police misogyny.

Calling for urgent reform, she said: “I don’t think that the situation for women is any better than it was three years ago, five years ago or 10 years ago. There are still institutional issues with misogyny with the police.”

NPCC chair Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said the screening was a “significant task”.

“Police forces responded with urgency, enabling us to carry out the largest integrity screening project that policing has ever seen. Despite the comparatively low numbers of returns, the exercise was important in ensuring we have a strong foundation on which to build an automated process,” he added.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues across government and policing to make this a reality.

“I hope that it gives further reassurance to communities, and to colleagues in policing, that the overwhelming majority of the workforce can be trusted, and that if you are involved in wrongdoing, there is no place to hide.”

David Carrick was unmasked as one of the UK’s worst sex offenders last year when he was convicted of 49 offences including 24 rapes (PA Media)
David Carrick was unmasked as one of the UK’s worst sex offenders last year when he was convicted of 49 offences including 24 rapes (PA Media)

The review also unearthed 400 cases where officers, staff or volunteers had been victims of or witnesses to a crime not previously known about by their employer.

Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, NPCC lead for the data wash, said although cases of concern had been identified, the low number and action taken “should provide reassurance that we are committed to the highest standards of integrity”.

The Met, the country’s largest police force, said no criminal investigations were triggered as a result of the screening – although 58 disciplinary investigations into misconduct or gross misconduct were launched.

Commander James Harman said: “The Met was one of the first forces to carry out a data wash of our entire 50,000-employee workforce, finding a comparatively small amount of information needing further investigation, and nothing of a criminal nature.

“The task of checking every employee against the national database was a critical one and aligns to our significant steps to root out those who have no place in the Met.”

Plans are under way to set up regular police database screening for all police service employees.

Donna Jones, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said individuals identified by the screening exercise will be dealt with “swiftly”.

She added: “Where individuals of concern have been identified, PCCs will hold their force chiefs to account locally to ensure that they are dealt with appropriately and swiftly.

“PCCs also support chief constables’ call for a permanent and ongoing system for the monitoring of police and staff and will work with policing partners and government to identify and implement the most effective solution as quickly as possible.”