A woman who was abused for decades by her police officer husband has described how she and other victims feel “gaslighted” and “triggered” by the Met’s response to the findings of the damning Casey Review.
Freya, who uses a pseudonym, is the founder of the PoliceMeToo movement, which is collating the testimonies of women and girls abused by serving police officers, said she and other victims were “furious” as she criticised the police response to the review, saying it “missed the point”.
Claims by Met chief Sir Mark Rowley – who said he felt a sense of “pride” that officers had come forward to disclose abuses – had “triggered” victims, she said.
“It’s not just about what they’ve been through but also the deep injustices they’ve felt. This is a double blow, and there’s going to be a lot of women affected.”
She also raised concerns about statements made by Maggie Blyth, the police national lead on violence against women and girls, who accepted that institutional sexism and misogyny exists in the force but stated that it reflected the issues faced in wider society.
“It’s kind of like softening the blow, saying it’s in society and the police reflect society. No: this is about violent police officers,” Freya said. “They’re shifting the blame onto women, saying women thought they wouldn’t have been believed. They’re missing the point and I feel as a victim I’m just being gaslighted.”
Freya claimed the recommendations contained in Baroness Casey’s report, published on Tuesday, had been put to the police four years ago but were dismissed and ignored.
In the meantime, serving officers have been able to perpetrate crimes against women with impunity – including the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, she told i.
Together with a group of 19 women who suffered domestic violence at the hands of police, and alongside the Centre for Women’s Justice, Freya launched a “super-complaint” against the police in 2019, accusing them of ignoring attempts to report officers for violent domestic crimes and closing ranks.
The police super-complaints system allows designated organisations to raise issues on behalf of the public about harmful patterns or trends in policing.
When a formal response to the complaint came last year, it dismissed the accusations made, stating “we have not found substantiated examples of corruption and collusion occurring through the course of our investigation.”
Police also rejected the complainants’ recommendations that separate reporting and investigation channels should be set up for the victims of police-perpetrated violence against women and girls.
Freya said: “[In the Casey report] they’ve got police officers saying they have this concern that ‘we look after our own’. We said that in our police super-complaint and they dismissed it.
“When we submitted [the complaint] four years ago the whole point was that they weren’t taking any notice of us and we had to come together. If they’re finally accepting this now, why was it dismissed in the super-complaint?”
The review found “cases in the Met where friends and superiors had closed ranks around the police suspect to protect them”.
It also found that allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault were less likely to result in a “case to answer decision” against an officer than other misconduct allegations. “This only reinforces a cycle in which people do not report,” Baroness Casey concluded.
Freya claimed both police and victims knew that officers could offend “with impunity” because the system continued to protect them despite best efforts of whistleblowers like herself.
“An officer in Northern Ireland has been given a suspended sentence for sexual offences against young girls. He was sending photos in the police station both after and while he knew he was being investigated, and while he’s on duty. That’s impunity.”
She added: “The other thing we said was we needed a bespoke reporting channel, and they dismissed that. We suggested it four years ago. How many abusers have there been in the last four years, how many women have been abused by police officers and haven’t been able to report in that time?”
The conclusion of the review, that the “integrity” of the force is “vulnerable to threat”, made Freya cry, she said, as it echoed the response to the super-complaint published last year. “Though we were vindicated, it wasn’t enough,” she added.
“I still can’t get my head around the fact that one of the recommendations from the complaint was that the police force ought to follow the law. I thought, it’s taken all that just to get them to request to follow the law – which they swear an oath to uphold.”
In a statement in response to the review, Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley apologised to those let down by the force and said the Met is taking action to improve vetting and getting rid of more officers who should not be serving.
“To be part of an organisation that has let individuals down so badly is deeply upsetting. And that’s where part of my own motivation comes from,” he said. “Because we have to right this wrong. We have to deal with these cultural problems. And the vast majority of my colleagues are up for this.”