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Sex Discrimination In The Met – Freedom Of Information Request

In February 2024, we submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police. We asked for the number of complaints and conduct matters the Met have recorded which involve an abuse of position for a sexual purpose. We also asked how many of these matters were categorised as ‘discriminatory behaviour’.

Their response, received on 18 March 2024, stated that there have been 97 allegations in total, against 88 police officers. Of these allegations, none were recorded within the category of ‘discriminatory behaviour’.

Abuse of Position for a Sexual Purpose

In 2017, the National Police Chief’s Council launched a strategy aimed at tackling the issue of officers abusing their position of power within the police to cause harm. Over recent years, considerable public pressure has been placed on the police to improve accountability for serving officers who engage in inappropriate, and often illegal, behaviour.

‘Abuse of position for a sexual purpose’ became a specific allegation type in February 2020, when new regulations came into force. It is defined as: behaviour demonstrated by a police officer or police staff member, whether on or off duty, that misuses their position, authority or powers to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a member of the public.

Discriminatory Behaviour

Discrimination occurs when you are treated differently on the basis of a ‘protected characteristic’ – for example, your race, disability, gender, religion and belief, sexual orientation, or age. It can either be direct or indirect.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It therefore seems shocking that, out of a significant number of complaints and conduct issues where police officers have allegedly abused their position for a sexual purpose, none of these were found to be ‘discriminatory’. By its very definition, abuse of a sexual nature is likely to be committed for reasons associated with sex, gender, and sexuality.

FOI Response

When complaints are made about a serving police officer, the issue can be investigated by the Met internally, or referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). Both bodies are required to record statistics about the complaints they receive and investigate.

Under the Police Reform Act 2002, IOPC provide guidance and definitions to assist those recording allegations about police conduct linked to complaint cases. This guidance specifically refers to the recording of complaints which involve ‘discriminatory behaviour’, and lists sex discrimination as a sub-category of discriminatory behaviour.

It is clear from the FOI response that the Metropolitan Police are not treating conduct and complaint matters of a sexual nature with appropriate weight. An urgent change to both policies and attitudes is needed if we are achieve equal treatment for all those who come into contact with police.

If you have experienced sexual harassment or other mistreatment from a serving police officer, we may be able to help. Please contact our leading Civil Liberties & Human Rights Solicitors today on 0330 822 3451 to talk through your situation with us. Alternatively, you can request a call back or get in touch with us online. 

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