Failed investigation leads to shake up in Met Police rape unit
The Metropolitan Police’s Sapphire squad is set to merge with a team of child abuse detectives following a series of significant failures.
All investigations of rape, sexual assault and child abuse are to fall under the jurisdiction of a single department. The department will comprise of more than 1400 staff, meaning at least 100 additional officers are to be recruited.
The shake-up, which includes a name change, follows a staggering ninth inquiry into the service’s handling of sexual assaults, as conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Failings of the Sapphire unit have been well documented. In total, 19 officers across London have been disciplined, with three of them having been dismissed.
The most recent IPCC report highlighted the damning case of Jean Say. A woman was encouraged to withdraw sexual assault allegations against Mr Say, who in time went on to murder his own son and daughter.
Deborah Glass of the IPCC spoke to BBC News about the incident. She said: “[This was] a very shocking and disturbing allegation that should have been taken seriously at the time and it wasn’t”.
However, the revisions present an opportunity to significantly improve conduct as well as a negative public image.
A spokesperson for Scotland Yard told LBC 97.3: “We learn from our mistakes, and continue to develop to deliver the best service to victims in the areas of rape and child sexual exploitation. We are creating a new command to draw together a specialist expertise for all serious sexual offence from child to adult, sharing intelligence and best practice.”
However the plans are not without critics. Debaleena Dasgupta, a lawyer specialising in representing rape victims, dismissed the plans as a “complete rebranding exercise.”
Speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 she said: “It doesn’t change anything at all. What they are talking about is removing senior officers, which I think looks like a cost-cutting exercise”.
She called for the introduction of “proper guidelines” while pressing for an increase in officer supervision and greater accountability upon failure.
Meanwhile Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie, also speaking to BBC Radio 4, maintained victims would receive “highly professional service.”
He added: “this should be seen as good news not bad news. There is an absolute steadfast determination that this new command will work.”
The restructure is set to take place in the summer.