The police force is finally starting to admit that it’s failing women – but is it enough?

Written by Amy Beecham

Chief executive of the College of Policing Andy Marsh said he wanted a new code of practice for the policing of violence against women and girls to hep rebuild public trust in the force.     

Following a long-overdue official report into misogyny in policing, one of the most senior police figuresin England and Wales has called for a new ‘gold standard’ for gender-based violence investigations.

The report, ordered after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 by serving Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens,found defective vetting and failures by police leaders had allowed potentially thousands of “predatory” officers into police ranks.

In light of the findings, Andy Marsh, the chief executive of the College of Policing, said he wanted a new code of practice for the policing of violence against women and girlsand admitted that women have been “systematically failed” by the criminal justice system.

In an interview with The Guardian, Marsh said the report, combined with ongoing safeguarding scandals and sharp drops in the prosecution of rape, sexual assault and domestic abuse cases, had exposed failures at the highest level of policing.

“We failed victims, we failed them systematically,” he said. “I think everyone in the criminal justice system – which has failed too many victims too often – needs to take a long, hard look at themselves, and put that system back together again in a way that works much more effectively.”

High profile incidents like Everard’s murder, Operation Hotton, which exposed rape threats and domestic violence jokes Met police officers made in Whatsapp group chats, along with the trial of PC David Carrick, the Met officer currently facing 44 counts of rape, coercive behaviour and sexual assault have all affected the public perception of the police.

Following numerous campaigns – including Stylist’s A Fearless Future – the government has taken steps towards addressing the widespread problem, eventually publishing its long-awaited violence against women strategy in June 2021.  

Indeed, Marsh said the bond of trust between the police and women “must be mended”, but said he had confidence that could be achieved.

He pointed to the record recruitment of female officers – who now make up 34% of forces overall, including 31% of chief officers and 43% of recruits hired since April 2020 – and a series of improvements to the policing of VAWG, including guidance on non-molestation orders, bystander programmes and research on reducing violence against women.

“I have more than optimism, I have confidence that we will rebuild that trust,” he added.

However, just days ago, a series of high-profile campaign groups launched a super-complaint against the police today, claiming that they are failing to protect victims of stalking, amid alarmingly low prosecution rates.

Back in July, London’s victims’ commissioner Claire Waxman criticised the Metropolitan police for failing to provide effective support to rape victims and accused the Met of going “backwards” in terms of the support it provides.

On Friday, the UK also observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which seeks to bring attention to a movement to end male violence against women and girls (VAWG) by engaging with men and boys.

For support and advice, you can check out the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s website.

Images: Getty

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