England: Metropolitan Police scraps policy of believing all rape complainants
The UK’s biggest police force is to ditch a policy of believing all rape complainants following a series of embarrassing failures into alleged sex crimes, The Times reports.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, has told officers to have an open mind when an allegation is made and countenance the possibility that a crime was not committed.
“You start with a completely open mind, absolutely,” she said. “It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed. Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate.”
A national policy was put in place in 2011, following the Jimmy Savile revelations, which instructed officers to believe alleged victims, with the intention of encouraging complainants to come forward.
In 2016, however, Sir Richard Henriques, a retired judge who identified failings in Operation Midland, called for the policy to be withdrawn as it undermined the presumption of innocence.
In response to the question of whether she was rethinking the policy, Ms Dick said: “Rethink? I’ve rethought. I arrived saying very clearly to my people that we should have an open mind, of course, when a person walks in. We should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them. We should record what they say. From that moment on we are investigators.”
She added: “Our job in respect of investigations is to be fair, to be impartial, and where appropriate to bring things to justice — and of course to support victims, but it isn’t all about victims.”
The Met has also faced criticism following the collapse of a number of rape trials because of a failure to disclose evidence.
Ms Dick noted that the MeToo movement had shed light on sexual abuse but said: “Speaking as a cop, opposed to a citizen, I’m interested in crime. If it’s a long time ago, or it’s very trivial, or I’m not likely to get a criminal justice outcome, I’m not going to spend a lot of resources on it.
“And what might be a misunderstanding between two people, clumsy behaviour between somebody who fancies somebody else, is not a matter for the police.”