I have just concluded yet another claim where a Police Officer abused his position for sexual gain. In addition to paying my client substantial damages to reflect the harm caused, the Police Force agreed to issue to my client an apology.
Here are the terms;
“Please accept our regret and sorrow for the events that took place that simply should not have happened.
We have learnt significantly from the events that unfolded in 2015, which has led to changes within our processes.
- We will strive towards improving the appointment and selection of Family Liaison Officers (FLO’s) to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future.
- We now offer bespoke training to all FLO’s and their coordinators, to ensure there is an increased awareness of boundaries between FLO’s and the individuals they are assigned to.
We offer our sincere apologies for the harm, injury and damage that was caused to yourself and your family”.
Officers using their position for the purpose of sexual exploitation is a form of serious corruption. Although the problem was highlighted in the 2012 IPCC/Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) report as well as numerous high-profile misconduct and criminal cases, it is depressing that little or no action has been taken to address this.
In 2012, the IPCC/ACPO report called for a number of safeguards to be introduced;
- Enhanced internal vetting procedures.
- Greater supervision to ensure proper boundaries and response to reported concerns.
- Effective use and management of intelligence.
- Review to ensure lessons are learnt.
In 2015 (the year my client was abused), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) reported that the issue was of great concern to the public and hence required further review. In particular, the watchdog advised that the best way for forces to tackle abuse of authority was to prevent it from happening in the first place.
HMIC identified that “Some counter-corruption units did not have the capability or capacity to seek intelligence on potential abuse of authority for sexual gain”.
It also found that almost half of forces inspected were unable to audit or monitor use of all IT systems – limiting how much information could be gathered to identify officers or staff who might be accessing databases to hunt for vulnerable victims.
In many forces, personnel did not have a “sufficiently clear understanding” of the boundaries regarding “establishing or pursuing relationships with vulnerable people”.
In light of the recommendation that these issues needed to be addressed, I was outraged to read yesterday of Cheshire Constabulary’s failings as regards the appointment of PC Ian Naude in 2017.
PC Naude has been found guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl who he had first met a few days before following a domestic incident at her home in October 2017. After looking her up on Facebook and exchanging sexual messages and photos, he returned to her home three days later.
He picked her up while her mother was out and drove her to a country lane where he attacked her.
This is a very sad case in which opportunities to stop PC Naude were clearly missed. He had been “vetted” as of suitable character to become a student Police Officer in October 2016, but his recruitment was put on hold in February 2017 when Staffordshire Police (a neighbouring Force) received a complaint from a woman who said Naude had raped her.
When that allegation resulted in ‘no further action’ Naude was allowed to join Cheshire Police in April 2017, going on to groom and rape the 13-year-old girl only 7 months later.
In my opinion, it is clear that following the rape allegation of February 2017, Naude should have been re-vetted by Cheshire Police.
Had they done so (we now know) they would have discovered that Staffordshire Police also had details of an allegation against Naude that he had sexually abused a child and that he had been reported to West Mercia Police for stalking another child on social media (both reports made in January 2017).
This information was available on the Police National Computer system, but because no re-vetting was carried out Cheshire Police remained unaware of these allegations until they started to investigate the October 2017 rape.
It is shocking that such opportunities to identify and stop a rapist and paedophile from joining the Police were missed, especially given the numerous recent cases and reports regarding the problem of predatory police officers which I have highlighted above.
It is time I think for the Police to show to us that they are paying more than just ‘lip service’ to tackling this problem, both in terms of rooting out, but also turning back at the recruitment stage, men who could very well be tempted , or be intent from the outset, of using the tools of power given to them by the honourable office of Police Constable to target and abuse some of the most vulnerable women and children in our society.