Before I call the Home Secretary to make her statement, I remind Members of the sub judice rule. [Interruption.] Please, this is very important for all of us. In deciding how to apply the sub judice rule, I have to balance the public interest of the House considering matters of policy and public concern as soon as possible and the public interest in respecting the respective roles of Parliament and the courts. One of the purposes of the rule is to prevent the House even appearing to exert pressure on judicial decisions. This is why the rule applies until sentencing. Even though there has been a guilty plea, the sub judice rule applies in the case of David Carrick, except to the extent I have permitted reference to the case to give context to the statement. In particular, Members should concentrate on policy issues and avoid speculation about sentencing. I now call the Home Secretary.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on misconduct and vetting in the Metropolitan Police Service following the horrific David Carrick case, and I thank you for your statement.
Yesterday was a dark day for British policing and the Metropolitan police, as an officer admitted being responsible for a monstrous campaign of abuse. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in expressing sympathy to the victims and in thanking them for their courage in coming forward. It is intolerable for them to have suffered as they have. They were manipulated and isolated, and subjected to horrific abuse. For anyone to have gone through such torment is harrowing, but for it to have happened at the hands of someone they entrusted to keep people safe is almost beyond comprehension. The victims have shown extraordinary strength and courage. Their testimonies were essential in ensuring that Carrick faces justice for his crimes. It is thanks to them that this vile predator has been taken off our streets, and the public are safer as a result.
The police perform a unique and critical function in our society. Every day, thousands of decent, hard-working police officers perform their duties with the utmost professionalism. They feel pride in putting on their uniform and want only the best for the communities they serve. I know that they will share our collective disgust that a fellow officer could be responsible for such a despicable betrayal of everything that they stand for. It is imperative that this cannot happen again, so I am grateful for Lady Elish Angiolini’s assurance that she will look at this heinous case as part of her inquiry.
From the moment I became Home Secretary, I have made it clear that things have to change. Public trust is precious. Our model of policing by consent cannot work effectively without it. I discussed this case yesterday with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, and I am encouraged by the action he has taken so far with his team to root out officers who are not fit to wear the badge. This effort is being spearheaded by a new anti-corruption and abuse command, but there is still some way to go to ensure that the force can command the trust of the people that it serves.
It is vital that the Metropolitan police and other forces double down on their efforts to root out corrupt officers. This may mean more shocking cases come to light in the short term. It is a matter of the utmost importance that there are robust processes in place to stop the wrong people joining the police in the first place, which is why the Government have invested in improving recruitment processes and supporting vetting as part of the more than £3 billion that we have provided for the police uplift programme. I expect this work to continue at pace, and for all chief constables to prioritise delivery of the recommendations made by the police inspectorate’s recent report on vetting, counter-corruption and misogyny.
It is now for the Metropolitan police to demonstrate that they have an effective plan in place to rapidly improve their vetting processes. Much of the impetus for change must come from within policing, but this Government will continue leading from the front. As I have made clear, we are bringing forward part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry to make recommendations on how forces can improve culture and tackle the root causes of police criminality and misconduct. The inquiry was established by the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel). I pay tribute to her commitment and leadership on these critical issues.
As well as ensuring that vetting processes are watertight, there must be fair and effective arrangements for dealing with those who behave or act in a wholly unacceptable way while serving. Baroness Casey recently identified concerns about the misconduct and dismissals process within the Metropolitan police: it takes too long, it does not command the confidence of police officers and it is procedurally burdened. Bureaucracy and process appear to have prevailed over ethics and common sense. That is why I have announced an internal review into police dismissals. The review’s terms of reference are being published today.
This case will rightly throw a spotlight once again on women’s safety. No one should suffer abuse or feel frightened or harassed, whether they are at home, out and about or online. We are taking concerted action to prevent violence against women, support victims and survivors, relentlessly pursue perpetrators and strengthen the system as a whole.
On rape specifically, we are focused on delivering improvements across the board, so that victims get the support they deserve and cases are pursued rigorously from report to court. There have been some important steps forward since the publication of the rape review in 2021. The number of referrals and charges has increased nationally, while new operating models for the investigation and prosecution of rape are being developed through Operation Soteria.
None of that can undo the suffering of Carrick’s victims, but I assure the House that this Government will not shy away from challenging the police to meet the standards we all expect of them. Change must happen and, as Home Secretary, I will do everything in my power to ensure that it does. I commend this statement to the House.
I call the shadow Home Secretary.
This is a truly shocking and appalling case, and I welcome the statement today. A serving police officer has admitted to some of the most serious and devastating crimes. I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to the bravery of the victims who have come forward, but we must face up to the further evidence that this case has brought up of appalling failures in the police’s vetting and misconduct processes, which are still not being addressed by the Government and are not addressed in this statement. Given the scale of the problems not just in this case but in previous cases, the Home Secretary’s statement is very weak and shows a serious lack of leadership on something that is so grave and that affects confidence in policing as well as serious crimes.
We have seen repeated failures by serving police officers to respond to or take seriously allegations of violence against women by a serving police officer. Allegations of domestic abuse have not been taken seriously in the vetting processes. In this case, there was a failure to suspend David Carrick when rape allegations were made in July 2021, even though the Met police knew there had been domestic abuse allegations two years previously. A misconduct process concluded that there was no case to answer, despite the repeated alarms raised. A full vetting check was not triggered, and David Carrick’s permission to carry firearms was restored.
Most shocking of all is that this happened at the height of the alarm about Wayne Couzens and the deeply disturbing murder of Sarah Everard. This undermines confidence for women and for victims but also for police officers who are working so hard—especially women police officers, who may themselves have reported misogynistic abuse, and officers who are doing excellent work every day to tackle violence against women and girls and know that confidence in that work is being undermined.
We support the new Met Commissioner’s determination to take action, but this is not just about the Met. Concerns about misogyny and culture have been raised in Sussex, Hampshire, Derbyshire, Gwent, Police Scotland and other forces. There has been a lack of leadership from the Government on police standards for years. After the truly appalling murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, Home Office Ministers promised change. The then Home Secretary promised to set up processes that would prevent this from happening again, and that has badly failed.
There are still no legal requirements on vetting. Forces can effectively do what they want. They do not even have to check employment history and character references, and some do not. They do not even have to interview people beforehand. When the inspectorate came up with the damning conclusion that hundreds, if not thousands, of police officers who should have failed vetting are still in the job, including corrupt and predatory officers and officers who have committed offences of indecent exposure and domestic abuse, the Policing Minister refused to even make it a requirement for police forces to follow the recommendations of the inspectorate. They just shrugged and said that it was a matter for police forces to follow. There has been no response to make it compulsory to follow vetting guidance or to follow the reforms.
All we have in this statement is a continuation of the existing Angiolini review and a new review on dismissals. I welcome that new review, because there are concerns that the dismissals process has become more difficult and worse since well-intended reforms were introduced that have not worked as intended, but it was announced in October, and it still has not started. All the Home Secretary has done is re-announce it today. The Home Secretary has dismissed as “woke” some of the things that police forces have been doing to tackle misogyny, increase diversity and improve their response to communities and to crime, even though they are about tackling some of the most serious crimes.
It is also about how seriously Ministers take tackling violence against women and girls more broadly. We know that the charge rate for rape has dropped to a shameful 1.5%—it has dropped by two thirds over the last seven years. Again, Home Office Ministers promised that tackling violence against women and girls would become part of the compulsory strategic policing requirement. It has been reported that that has not happened. Can the Home Secretary confirm that, nine months after Ministers announced it, she has not made it a strategic policing requirement to prioritise violence against women and girls?
After the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, Labour called for change. After the horrific murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, Labour called for leadership. After the shameful case of Child Q, Labour called for reform. After the shocking Charing Cross station report, Labour demanded action. After the Stephen Port inquiry, Labour called for reform. After the cases right across the country of abuse and misogyny, Labour has demanded change. Conservative Ministers promised that action would be taken, but they have failed to do so.
Labour will change the law. Labour will overhaul the vetting, misconduct and standards system, because it is time for change. We are letting down police officers across the country who do excellent work and are being let down by these failures in the system. Most of all, women are being let down. It is too late for all the warm words in the Home Secretary’s statement. What is she actually going to do to make sure that standards are raised?
It is disappointing that the shadow Home Secretary has resorted to cheap political lines; I do not think that today is a day for political attacks. There is a human tragedy at the heart of this case, and ultimately, politics should be set aside. I am willing to work with anybody—the inspectorate; the politician with overriding responsibility for the Met police, who is a Labour politician, Sadiq Khan; all the chief constables; and everybody in the Chamber—to bring about change and safety, and to improve standards in our police forces around the country.
That is why I support the Met Commissioner’s statement yesterday, in which he accepted that there were failings. There is no question about that: there were failings in the system when it came to vetting and checking, and there were failures by the Met police. It is clear that culture and standards in the police need to change, which is why I will not shy away from challenging chief constables around the country on the standards that they uphold and instil in their individual forces.
Police constables and police leaders have all accepted the recommendations set out in the inspectorate’s comprehensive report, which was commissioned by the Government in response to Sarah Everard’s murder to look more closely at the procedures that have been put in place and how well they have been working when it comes to vetting, checking, monitoring and disciplinary processes related to policing. That report clearly identified several concerns and failings in policing, and made recommendations, the bulk of which were aimed at police constables, the College of Policing, and the National Policing Board.
All those recommendations have been accepted and we are closely monitoring the delivery of those improvements in rigour and standards when it comes to the entry processes, vetting and checking for new recruits to policing. We have also ensured that Lady Angiolini will look more closely into the culture of policing so that we can better implement and deliver systems that will root out misogyny, predatory behaviour, sexual assault or any other offensive behaviour that might lead to criminal activity within policing.
Let me be clear, however, that I am proud of the Government’s track record on supporting women and girls in the criminal justice system. We put in place the groundbreaking Operation Soteria around the country to improve practices when it comes to the police investigation of rape and serious sexual offences in the prosecution and court resolution phases. We are already seeing signs of improvement when it comes to supporting victims of those heinous crimes through our criminal justice system. We also introduced a raft of new offences, such as on upskirting, stalking, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, to better protect women and girls in society, and our landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which expanded the definition and protections available to victims of domestic abuse. I am proud of the leadership and initiative that we have demonstrated when it comes to standing up for women and girls.
We will not be complacent, however, because of course we can go further and do more. I am keen to focus on the solutions and move forward, so that we do not see repeated incidents and tragedies, such as the one that we are talking about today.
There is no doubt that it is a sorry, and in fact tragic, state of affairs that the House has convened to discuss this issue again today. The Home Secretary will fully recognise that reviews have been commissioned since 2021, which led to the Angiolini inquiry, and obviously this will feature in part 2. It would be welcome if the Home Secretary would explain how that will work and when it will report. Since then, we have had not only the Angiolini work, but the Louise Casey review, which was damning, and the inspectorate’s report, which, I am afraid, was also damning on a raft of issues, such as security, vetting, misogyny, practices and the whole culture of policing, as mentioned by the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper).
The recommendations are already there. In fact, if I may say so to the Home Secretary, previous Policing Ministers and I put forward proper recommendations for the strategic policing requirement. There are issues that could be resolved so that people could be held to account sooner rather than later through that requirement. I urge her to consider, particularly after the tragic cases that we have heard about in relation to the Carrick incident and his victims, putting much of that on to a statutory footing. If we do not, we will be here again and again to pay tribute to victims while, frankly, parts of the law enforcement system continue to fail the British public and fail victims.
I reiterate my thanks and tribute to my right hon. Friend for her leadership when she was in this role. She led from the front in the fight to protect women and girls and to uphold their safety. Lady Elish Angiolini has confirmed that she will consider the Carrick case in her inquiry and, as I mentioned, part 2 will be brought forward. We expect it to provide an examination of the wider issues in policing, such as culture, vetting and the safety of women, which are relevant to the appalling case that we have heard about this week. I confirm that violence against women and girls will be included in the strategic policing requirement.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and I put on record the SNP’s tribute to the victims in this case for their bravery in the face of ongoing trauma.
The charges that have been brought against David Carrick are incredibly disturbing—49 charges, including 24 counts of rape against 12 women over two decades, with accounts of domestic violence and coercive control. Through that, the Met has sought to protect its own, which is also incredibly disturbing and has led the former Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird to question the commitment to culture change at Scotland Yard.
It has been reported that the Met is checking back through 1,633 cases of alleged sexual offences involving 1,071 officers in the past decade. What retrospective action does the Home Secretary expect from that review? It should be a worry to all of us that those officers are still out there in their jobs, and that we may face what David Carrick reportedly told women when he flashed his warrant card: “I’m a police officer, you’re safe with me”—a chilling prospect. How does she intend to ensure that the review is thoroughly carried out? What updates can the House expect?
Lady Elish Angiolini has worked with Police Scotland to improve standards on this, and work is ongoing in Scotland too. How can women and people with vulnerabilities have the confidence that, if something happens to them while they are in London, the Met will respond in a proper way that respects their dignity?
The hon. Lady asks a series of good questions. To give more detail about the Met Commissioner’s commitments to strengthen the procedures, there is already a strengthening of the vetting of officers; an active review of historical cases is ongoing, where there may be a flag on the system for domestic incidents; and a data washing process is ongoing to ensure that the Met’s data is being very extensively checked against rigorously managed national databases. That is all being led by a new anti-corruption and abuse command unit, which is instilling an institutionally higher standard of managing and overseeing the important issue of vetting.
Apparently Carrick was known as “Bastard Dave” by his colleagues, in the same way as Wayne Couzens was known as “the rapist”, but alarm bells were not rung. The most worrying aspect of this is the culture of cover-up and complacency that has allowed such abuse to happen on an industrial scale by certain individuals—in this case, for 17 years.
When the new Met Commissioner appeared before the Home Affairs Committee, we were encouraged that he expressed his determination to root out that mindset and those offenders. I ask the Home Secretary to comment specifically on his queries and concerns, however, about the difficulty of sacking officers; about why professional standards are not investigating more of those cases; that it is not suitable to put officers who have been accused of serious offences on to light duties—they should be fully suspended—and that there should be a duty of care for whistleblowing. What urgent action will she now take on those issues to restore some confidence, particularly in the Met and especially among women?
My hon. Friend raises a very good point about the disciplinary process. Indeed, Sir Mark Rowley himself has spoken at length—not just at the Select Committee, but more broadly—about the challenges he has faced in trying to dismiss patently inappropriate officers. He has come up against a heavily bureaucratic process that is not working, and that is why I have today launched a review into the process of police officer dismissals. I want to ensure that we have a fair and effective system for removing those officers who are simply not fit to serve.
I call the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.
This case, which has rightly shocked the nation, is yet another appalling example of systematic failures within the police to confront male violence against women and girls, and the sexist culture that exists within the police. Again and again, the Home Affairs Committee has heard evidence of how weak or non-existent vetting and misconduct processes have allowed violent male officers to continue harassing and abusing women—not just in London, but in forces across the country.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has, as I understand it, made specific demands of the Home Secretary in relation to changes to the dismissal of officers, so could she just update the House as to what she is going to do about those specific requests, and why do we need a review when it is quite clear—from the recommendations of His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and the reports that the Home Affairs Committee has produced—what needs to be done? We do not need another review; we just need action.
It is important that we look closely at exactly what is happening in the police misconduct process. Concerns have been raised—not only by Baroness Casey, but by Sir Mark Rowley—and what I want to do is ensure that we have a system that is fit for purpose. For example, concerns have been raised about the presence of legally qualified chairs, who are somehow applying a quasi-judicial approach to a system that should be much more akin to an internal human resources disciplinary approach. That has so far been highlighted as not being fit for purpose; not fit for achieving the goal, which we all want, of empowering chief constables to make decisions on disciplinary matters and for those to be sustained.
Well, here we are again—it feels like groundhog day—questioning one of the Ministers in a Government I support about the culture within the Metropolitan Police Service. What is going to change? I listened carefully to the Home Secretary as she listed the new offences that this Government are putting on the statute book for protecting women and combatting male violence against women and girls, but the real challenge is the culture towards women that exists within our police service and throughout our criminal justice system. Can I just repeat the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel): when are we really going to fully use statutory power to protect women from male violence?
My hon. Friend raises a good point about police culture, which is why we need to ensure that we have a good analysis of exactly what that means. We have some important findings from the inspectorate, and also from Baroness Casey—her findings are interim, not final—which set out serious concerns about the police culture that is leading to pockets of this unacceptable behaviour. We have already commissioned the Angiolini inquiries, and we must let those run their course, and on the basis of those robust findings we will be able to take the right action to ensure that this kind of behaviour is rooted out, that these kinds of individuals are not allowed into the police force in the first place, and that we can better protect the public and restore their confidence in policing.
I call the Mother of the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. I completely agree with the very strong questioning put by the shadow Home Secretary, and I also agree with what was said by the former Home Secretary and the current Chair of the Select Committee.
I have two questions. The first is about timing. As hon. Members have said, successive Metropolitan Police Commissioners have complained that the regulations this House has put in place in statutory instruments prevent them from sacking officers who they know are unfit to be in the Metropolitan police, so that puts a responsibility on us to change those regulations. Can I suggest that the Home Secretary, in consultation with the Metropolitan police, brings forward draft regulations, and let us consult not in the overall generality of a review, but on those specific draft regulations? We will be 100% behind her when she brings to the House changed regulations, so that the Metropolitan police are able to manage the force in the way we all want to see them manage it.
The second point about Sir Mark Rowley and the response to the Carrick situation is that this is not just about change in the future, but about dealing with the individuals who are currently in senior and management positions in the Met who seemed to think it was all right for Carrick to be given extra responsibilities and to be promoted. The management suitability of those officers really ought to be examined by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and we need a bit of transparency about that. Will the Home Secretary urge the commissioner, whom we all support in his determination to change the culture, to publish transparently what tracking he has gone through of when Carrick was looked at and nothing was done, because all of those senior officers have colluded? Will she also look through all of the officers, at horizontal level, who were part of the banter and the immediate culture of this officer, and who did nothing to report him and therefore were colluding in the perpetration of these atrocious crimes?
I want to do what works, which is why I have taken very seriously what the Met commissioner has said about the process relating to police misconduct hearings and disciplinary processes. I have been clear that where there is a role for Government, we will act, but it is important that we look carefully at the issue. That is why the review I have just announced will cover issues such as the legally qualified chairs, to ensure that they are striking the right balance and making the right decisions. It is important that we ensure that the trends in the use of misconduct sanctions and the consistency of decision making in cases of sexual misconduct, other violence against women and girls and such offences are appropriate. Those are the kinds of things we need to look at very carefully.
When it comes to the Metropolitan police, as I have said, the Met commissioner has instituted a new anti-corruption and abuse command specifically to look at any other risk factors and any other issues relating to this kind of incident. An extra 100 officers were drafted in to use covert tactics to identify officers who act in a corrupt or predatory manner, including those who abuse their positions in the police. I am encouraged by those early commitments by the Met commissioner, and I think we need to get behind him so that we can radically improve the system.
I think Sir Mark Rowley’s statement yesterday was pathetic. It was a statement of the blindingly obvious, and anybody can say sorry for what has gone on. This is an absolute scandal, and I wish to support what the Mother of the House has just said. In no comment that has been made has there been any suggestion of the accountability of anybody else in the Metropolitan police over many years for this man’s conduct. His egregious behaviour was known—there were seven or eight allegations regarding his behaviour—yet nothing was done. We have had excuse after excuse after excuse. We can worry about the future, but there are people in the Metropolitan police who enabled this man to continue being a threat to women and girls, and they should be sacked.
It is important to note that David Carrick’s initial vetting to join the Metropolitan police took place in 2001, prior to the introduction of national standards on vetting, and prior to the regime that has been in place since 2017, which was introduced to ensure consistency in decision making. My hon. Friend rightly expresses frustration with the situation, and I agree. It is incredibly frustrating to be here yet again after another tragedy. But I would just gently push back. I have confidence in Sir Mark Rowley. He joined the leadership of the Met recently, and he has not hesitated in accepting the enormity of the problems that the Met police currently face. He has presented a plan and is already taking tangible action to deliver on it. He understands that there is a problem with confidence in the Met police, and challenges and problems with standards and performance. He is honest and frank about those challenges and does not shy away from fixing them.
Who will be conducting the internal review, when will it report, and will the Home Secretary ensure that previous Metropolitan Police Commissioners will also give evidence to it?
The review will be carried out in a comprehensive and extensive way to command confidence among police officers, members of the public and other stakeholders. I want it to report swiftly. I am wary of having more reviews, reports and inquiries; we need action. My impression is that there is a real problem with the process. I need to identify exactly what needs fixing and thereafter we can take swift action.
May I mirror the Home Secretary’s comments and pay tribute to the victims of David Carrick, and urge other victims to come forward if they have any concerns about serving police officers, or anybody else? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to support Sir Mark Rowley in his quest to get rid of the rot in the culture of the Metropolitan police? I hear that he is now investigating nearly 1,000 police officers and staff, so we must prepare ourselves for further revelations, similar to those about Carrick. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is important that the police and crime commissioner for London, and his Deputy Mayor for policing and crime, also play their part? Perhaps they have been missing in action over the past seven years.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Ultimately, the politician responsible for the performance of the Metropolitan police is the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and ultimately he should be held politically responsible for failings within the Met. Greater support, greater priority and greater focus from him would do no harm.
My respect goes out to the brave women who have come forward, but women should not need to be brave. The system should protect them and believe them when they speak out. On 20 September 2021, Byline Times reported that more than half of Met officers found guilty of sexual misconduct kept their jobs. A report today states that some women who report sexual abuse or misconduct may then see one of those officers, because the Met cannot guarantee that they are not using their power to do that. What has been exposed in the Met is structural and institutional, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State agrees with that or even understands it. Does she agree that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, was right to sack Cressida Dick? The Secretary of State’s approach in the Chamber today, and the slow “kick the can down the road” or “do another review,” serves only to inflict more pain on women and girls. She needs to take that on board if she is to do her job properly.
We must also review all cases that the criminal police officers have presided over. If they are bad, they are bad—they are not just bad in one case; they are bad in all cases. In Brent, after the tragic murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the police took pictures of their bodies. The pain that their mother goes through—I speak to her on a regular basis, and every time there is something like this it inflicts more triggering pain on people who have gone through it, and the police were slow to act. The Secretary of State can do something about this. The new commissioner, Mark Rowley, has said that he needs more support in being able to sack officers, not another review or report. He needs things to change. As chair of the London parliamentary Labour party, I wonder whether the Secretary of State is willing to listen to voices from the London PLP and work with us, as well as the Met Commissioner, to change the law on this issue.
There are some fair points there. What I find instructive on this issue, albeit on an interim basis, is the interim report by Baroness Casey, which looked into the Met and its standards on vetting and procedures. It made for concerning reading. She is currently carrying out an in-depth inquiry into this subject, and she found that the Met does not fully support the local professional standards units to deal effectively with misconduct. Effectively, the structure relating to individual commands is not working, and there is uncertainty about what constitutes gross misconduct and what will be done about it. There are important lessons to be learned from Baroness Casey’s inquiry into the Met, so that we ensure that things such as this do not happen again.
David Carrick is now one of the UK’s most prolific rapists, and he did that while serving as a police officer. It is utterly disgusting. Does the Home Secretary agree we should review sentencing laws? We have already done that for people who kill emergency workers, so how about reviewing the sentencing law so that if a police officer commits these horrible crimes, we increase their sentence? Does she also agree that the managers who knew about this should be sacked immediately—
Order. Please remember sub judice. We should not be talking about sentencing. Home Secretary, just answer the points you can.
My hon. Friend voices the frustration and disappointment we are all feeling today at a serving police officer having been found responsible for such heinous and appalling crimes. An abuse of trust has shattered public confidence in policing, and undermined the safety of women and girls. We will not shy away from doing what is necessary to ensure that cases such as this are not repeated, and so that women and girls in particular can have confidence in policing around the country.
Order. I remind Members that aspects of this issue are sub judice. Please stay well away from anything relating to things that are still before the courts.
I too commend the bravery of the women involved in this case, but some of them would not have needed to be brave if action had been taken. As a former police officer I am disgusted and ashamed by what I have heard. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said that 800 of his officers are under investigation. Has the Home Secretary requested similar figures from other police forces? What is the impact on the operational capability of police officers? Finally, as the Mother of the House rightly pointed out, police officers are not employed. They are not subject to employment law; they are appointed. Staff associations within the police service, such as the Police Federation, play a very important role in disciplinary and conduct issues. What engagement is the Home Secretary having with them?
The inspectorate reported late last year on that issue, looking at the performance of forces all over the country on vetting and the monitoring of disciplinary matters in policing. The inspectorate made 43 recommendations, largely focused on chief constables around England and Wales, the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council. They have all been accepted. There are deadlines for spring this year, and later this year, and we are closely monitoring the implementation and delivery of those recommendations.
We hear reported on the BBC that this monster, David Carrick, perpetrated a campaign of terror against his “girlfriends”. He put drugs in the car, he restrained people with police handcuffs, and he said “Who would anyone believe? You or me? I’m an important person. I guard the Prime Minister. I am a police officer.” That highlights the lengths to which that monster would go, and the challenge for those victims to come forward. Does the Home Secretary agree that, as well as the welcome measures that she has set out, all of which I support, one positive thing we can do is bring forward the victims Bill, to strengthen the support of the criminal justice system for those women, provide better support, and beef up the role of independent sexual violence advisers? I know that is not in her Department’s remit, but will she work with me and her colleague the Justice Secretary, to see whether we can get parliamentary time for that Bill as quickly as possible?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the groundbreaking work she did when she was in government to support women and girls and their safety. She is absolutely right, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister is committed to introducing the victims Bill. I am particularly supportive of increasing the number of independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers as they have made a huge difference to the experience of victims going through the criminal justice system. They can make the difference between a victim withdrawing and a victim persisting and reaching a conviction. I therefore think that, yes, putting through more resources and introducing important legislation is vital.
Yesterday, when the Education Secretary was asked on the radio if the Government could say that women could trust the police, she replied:
“It’s very important that we do trust the police.”
I think that is a no. We cannot have a situation where women who would ordinarily turn to the police to rescue them from dangerous situations—whether out on the street, domestic violence or as the victim of abuse—feel that they cannot trust the person from whom they might seek help and that they might be violated by them. I endorse what everyone has said about needing to address the culture in the police force, but will the Home Secretary set out a timetable and tell us what immediate action she will take to address that, so that women who are in danger feel that they can look to the police for support?
I am the first person to say that this is obviously a disappointing, frustrating, sobering and chilling day for policing. It is regrettable and shameful that this has happened. I would also say that poorly behaved and criminal police officers are a minority and that we have tens of thousands of very brave, dedicated men and women all over the country who will be feeling the equivalent level of shame and disgust that we are expressing. This is not in their name. This is about changing the system to root out poor behaviour and so that everybody can be proud to be serving in our police force.
This case has once again highlighted the terrible internal processes in our police forces and the inability of people to speak up in a culture that actively works against their doing so. So many police officers will not raise issues with fellow officers because they fear for their jobs and their employment. Will my right hon. and learned Friend take the opportunity to do a root and branch investigation into the culture in the police forces, particularly with regard to the ability to speak up and for whistleblowers to have their voices heard?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. Police culture and whether there is a culture of fear, with people scared to speak up and call out unacceptable behaviour, is exactly what part 2 of the Lady Angiolini inquiry will cover. We need to pinpoint that precisely so that we can take action to ensure that there is an open, welcoming and professional environment in which everybody can thrive.
There are many similarities between the experience of women in the Met police and women in the armed forces. Both are organisations in which we should have complete faith, but both organisations have failed to act on many occasions where there have been situations of misogyny.
There are two big issues: the crimes of the perpetrator himself and the failure of senior officers to act and take action when concerns were raised. The Home Secretary has talked about how action will be taken on offenders, but she has said much less about what will happen with senior officers who were aware of such behaviour and covered it up. Will she say some more about that?
That goes to the point about the structures in place to monitor new recruits closely and ensure that those who are newer to policing get the right training and support from their senior leaders. That is why, in our historic police uplift programme, which will result in record numbers of police officers when complete in a few months’ time, a large part of that resource has gone to increasing vetting capacity and recruitment, so that proper standards and quality assurance are injected and really part of the process of recruiting new police officers.
We operate on a model of policing by consent, and I am afraid that too many people—especially women and girls—will be saying, “I don’t consent. I don’t agree to this model of policing in the country any more.” This is just the latest example of what we have seen in the Met. Such cases set back trust in the police and make it more difficult for decent, law-abiding officers to do their jobs. It is shameful that Carrick’s case has been allowed to carry on for so long, with information apparently known to the force and other forces without being shared and without action being taken.
There are clear lessons that we can learn about data sharing, improving whistleblowing, suspending officers without allowing them to operate on light duties and removing officers whom we are deeply concerned about. It is great that we are having these reviews and that we are trying to learn lessons from them, but I think what people want is concrete action and quickly. Will the Home Secretary please advise when we will see that?
My hon. Friend raises the right point about action. That is why a review of vetting capacity was carried out by the uplift programme as recently as October last year, to which 36 forces responded. It showed that 25 had increased their capacity and vetting units between February and October last year. I see that as action. I see that as police forces responding to the call to improve their services and resources and ensure that there are better processes and better systems in place to vet properly and monitor rigorously the behaviour of their professionals.
As a former detective inspector in the Metropolitan police, I, like everyone, am shocked, revulsed and horrified to hear of the abhorrent crimes of PC Carrick and the failure of the Metropolitan police and other police services, which allowed those crimes to go undetected and unprosecuted for almost 20 years. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of honest, hard-working and brave serving and retired police officers everywhere, I offer my sincere apologies to the victims of these cases, whose needs must be prioritised and given our complete and unquestioning support.
Will the Home Secretary confirm to the House that an investigation will be launched immediately, as identified in her review announced today, to identify and prosecute to the full extent of the law or see the most severe disciplinary action taken against any police officer or member of the police staff, past or present, who failed in their duty to protect the public in public office by not reporting or investigating complaints against PC Carrick or by preventing him from being arrested, prosecuted and brought to justice before now?
I cannot comment on the individual case, but late last year Baroness Casey’s review concluded on an interim basis that it is taking too long to resolve misconduct conduct cases within policing. Officers and staff do not believe that action will be taken when concerns around conduct are raised. Those are just a sample of some of the serious concerns that she identified when it comes to the process in place for monitoring and disciplining police officers for unacceptable behaviour. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his service in the police force. Whatever needs to be changed, we will do it.
Women in Stroud and around the country have woken up with their trust and belief in our police service badly shaken yet again. From speaking to local women, I know that issues in the Met undermine their confidence in Stroud police. They can see that Gloucestershire constabulary is working hard to protect them and that it is open to change. However, when we know that women are routinely not reporting violence, abuse and harassment in part because of a lack of faith in the police, and with each force doing something completely different, what is my right hon. and learned Friend doing to ensure that all forces get their act together and show the country that they are speaking to each other and that national change will be made on this issue?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of women’s confidence in policing. Tangible steps and measures have already been taken, after legislating in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, to address concerns surrounding data extraction from victims’ devices during investigations. We are well on the way to ensuring that victims are not without a phone for more than 24 hours. That has been a real deterrent to women coming forward with complaints about rape and other serious sexual offences. We have led with the groundbreaking Operation Soteria programme, a radical transformation in the way the police investigate rape and serious sexual offences. We are also protecting the wellbeing of victims during trials by offering pre-recorded evidence for rape victims. Those are just a few of the measures we are taking to send the message to women and girls, “Come forward if you are a victim. If you do, the police will be there to support you.”
The Home Secretary just mentioned that she wants women and girls to come forward with allegations of rape. The charge rate for rape is 1.5%. That means the vast majority of cases never go to court, let alone secure a conviction. This is not working for women and girls. They have courage in coming forward, but to know that they will never secure a conviction is a slap in the face yet again. What real action is the Home Secretary going to take to change and reverse that?
I have worked with cross-Government colleagues for several years in my former capacity as Attorney General on matters such as Operation Soteria. Operation Soteria is groundbreaking. It is producing real change in the way that victims of rape and serious sexual offences experience the criminal justice system. We are seeing an increase in referrals by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service. That is a sign of progress. We are seeing an increase in the rate of charge by the CPS passing the case on to His Majesty’s Courts Service. We will see an improvement in the number of convictions we secure. I agree that there is a lot to do, but progress has been made.
The first allegation of serious sexual assault was made against David Carrick in 2003. Over the course of the next 18 years, there were eight or nine allegations of rape. Through all that, he was not suspended from work. In fact, during that period he was actually promoted within the force. What is common to all these cases is that there appears to be some kind of omerta or closing of ranks between senior personnel when a criminal allegation is made against one of their brethren. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the time has come to outsource disciplinary decision making to another force or, at the very least, an officer who does not know the policeman who is the subject of this kind of allegation?
My hon. Friend is right to point to the failings. In sum, the Metropolitan police should have carried out a re-vet of David Carrick in 2011. That was not done until 2017. The Metropolitan police acknowledges that this would not have necessarily changed the vetting outcome. Systemic problems are prevalent and that is why we need to take action to fix them.
We are back again, Home Secretary. I am just exhausted by the number of times in this House we have to talk about this issue. Women in Lancashire have seen what has happened. They have seen what has been in the newspapers about David Carrick. They saw what happened with Wayne Couzens and so many other cases. They want to know why there is no legal requirement for vetting when officers move between forces. Yes, we are talking about the Met today, but we could equally be talking about the Lancashire constabulary. I would like to know what plans are in place to legally require vetting when officers move between forces, to stop perpetrators moving around the country to avoid justice.
We need to ensure the right system is in place to properly identify inappropriate candidates. What we have seen thus far is that there are inappropriate processes and people who are not right for policing are falling through the gaps and falling through the net. That needs to change. That is why I am glad that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has already committed to instilling an anti-corruption and abuse command unit to look properly at how inappropriate people are getting into the police force. We will take further action to look at the disciplinary process. The reports that are currently running their course need to conclude so we have an evidence base to take the appropriate action, in legislation if necessary.
This is an utterly shameful and appalling case. I have seldom seen such a palpable sense of shock in this Chamber as we have witnessed today. In responding to these terrible crimes, I hope the Home Secretary will also look at the Benjamin Hannam case from a few years back. It is deeply worrying that someone who had been a member of a banned extremist group, National Action, managed to be recruited as a probationary police officer.
All cases are abhorrent where confidence in policing is shattered and the reputation of the force is undermined. That is why we want to ensure that chief constables take the recommended action, which has been set out comprehensively: increasing minimum standards for pre-employment checks; establishing better processes for managing risks relating to vetting decisions; and ensuring that the quality and consistency of their vetting decision making is improved.
I undertook the police service parliamentary scheme with both the Metropolitan police and the Avon and Somerset police, going into the homes and situations of the country’s most vulnerable people, overwhelmingly women. That those women cannot be confident about police officers is abhorrent. We have heard nothing from the Home Secretary on what she will do to finally introduce mandatory national views on vetting. People in Bristol, particularly women, want to know that all police officers are being vetted appropriately, and that that applies across the country. Will she now commit to that being operationalised?
The Government legislated in February 2020 to strengthen police complaints and disciplinary systems to make them more transparent, more proportionate and more accountable. New powers for the Independent Office for Police Conduct include the power of initiative to ensure that it can commence investigations without the requirement of a referral from the police, as well as measures to streamline and speed up decision making. They build on previous reforms and, as I announced today, we will carry out a more in-depth review into the disciplinary process. If legislation is needed to change, we will do that.
This is an utterly shameful and shocking case. The vast majority of police officers in the Met and across the country believe in and perform to the highest professional standards. They see fellow officers who do not have appropriate action taken against them and the problem is that they just do not believe that appropriate action will be taken. Chief constables are tearing their hair out because they know they have some officers who are not fit to be in the police service, but they cannot dismiss them easily. May I join the calls from the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) for the Government to bring forward legislation to revise the dismissal procedures for police officers? The sooner we get rid of police officers who are not fit to serve, the better it will be for all concerned.
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. As Baroness Casey identified in her interim review at the end of last year, the misconduct process takes too long. Officers and staff do not have confidence in the process. Allegations relating to sexual misconduct and other discriminatory behaviour are less likely than other misconduct allegations to result in a case-to-answer decision. There is a real need for action to take place. That is why we will come up with proposals on the back of the review I have announced today.
When Sarah Everard was abducted from a street in London not far from my constituency and brutally murdered by a serving police officer with a history of predatory behaviour, the then deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police said there was zero tolerance of misogyny in the Met. The appalling crimes of David Carrick show that that was clearly not the case. The current commissioner says that there are between 800 and 1,000 officers currently under investigation for abuse. Can I ask the Home Secretary, because she has not answered this question so far today, what she is doing to ensure that there are actually consequences and accountability for the enablers in police forces up and down the country who protect abusers and allow them to continue their activities under the cover of their warrant card? Dealing with that issue is an essential prerequisite for zero tolerance to mean anything at all.
The action that needs to be taken has been set out incredibly widely and comprehensively in several reports. That action includes increasing the minimum standards for pre-employment checks; establishing better processes for assessing, analysing and managing the risks relating to vetting decisions, corruption investigations and information security; improving the quality and consistency of decision making when it comes to vetting; and extending the scope of the law relating to the police complaint and misconduct procedures. There is a very clear plan of action that is necessary among chief constables, the College of Policing and the NPCC, and the Home Office is monitoring and taking action where necessary.
Today’s exchanges show the depth of violence against women and girls, even by some of those in whom the public should have the greatest trust, and public confidence in policing will therefore be rattled. The Home Secretary said that David Carrick had been recruited before tightened vetting rules were introduced. Will my right hon. and learned Friend work with local police chiefs to find out how many people in their forces they view as potentially dangerous to the wider public, so that they and we can reassure our constituents as soon as possible that there are no David Carricks lurking in Gloucestershire or elsewhere?
That is exactly why, for the Met, the Met Commissioner has instituted a review of historic cases in respect of which there may be a flag for a domestic incident, and the Met is rigorously checking its data against national databases. I encourage all chief constables to take similar action to ensure that similar cases can be rooted out and action taken.
The problems that Mark Rowley faces in the Metropolitan police run very deep indeed. I have been supporting a constituent of mine with her allegations of threatening and controlling behaviour against a senior police officer. In the two years that I have been supporting her, the police have completely failed to investigate the case properly. They have failed to consider the impact on children, failed to interview witnesses and failed to get essential medical records. It is senior officers who are standing in the way of this investigation, as was the case with Wayne Couzens and with David Carrick. Mark Rowley is making specific requests for him to be assisted in making the changes he needs to make in the Metropolitan police. We cannot wait for another review, so will the Home Secretary commit to sitting down with Mark Rowley and give him the resources and support that he needs now?
May I clarify one point that I referred to earlier about some of the findings of Baroness Casey? I want to be clear that she found that allegations relating to sexual misconduct and other discriminatory behaviours are less likely than other misconduct allegations to result in a case-to-answer decision. I think I might have said the opposite earlier.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, which is why I have built a strong relationship with Sir Mark Rowley. I spoke to him yesterday and have been speaking to him regularly about exactly what action we are taking, not only from a parliamentary and legislative point of view but from an operational perspective on the ground.
This is an appalling case and another very dark day for the Metropolitan police, for our trust in them and, in particular, for women’s trust in them. It is not the first and I fear it will not be the last. Although I applaud what the Government are doing in terms of the better prosecution of rape cases and support for victims, those things are after the fact; we need to work on prevention, which comes through culture, as many others have said. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there are two aspects of that culture? There is the casual day-to-day misogyny that we see in the nicknames used by some—not all—for their fellow officers; there is also the institutional misogyny and denial that we see in the multiple reports that were made to the Metropolitan police and the opportunities for vetting that were all missed and resulted in many, many more rapes. Will my right hon. and learned Friend work with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to address both of those aspects of the culture?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I must say that the vast majority of police officers uphold the highest standards of behaviour and professionalism, but there are pockets of culture where standards fall short. We need to root that out, and the first thing to do is to identify exactly what form it takes and the extent to which it is prevalent. We will then know the steps that we can legitimately take to stop it happening again.
David Carrick was a Metropolitan police officer, but many of his crimes were perpetrated in Hertfordshire, where many of them would have been reported. As a Hertfordshire MP, I pay tribute to the bravery and perseverance of the rape survivors. Will the Home Secretary say whether the actions or inaction of Hertfordshire police will be looked at as part of any review? May I press her, as many colleagues have done, to confirm that she will introduce the vetting of officers when they transfer between forces? Will she also look into outsourcing disciplinary actions?
The Carrick case will be looked at by Lady Angiolini, and hopefully the issues to which the hon. Lady referred will be fleshed out. I am interested in her point about the transfer of police officers. It has been identified that insufficient vetting is taking place when police officers move between forces; we need to take action to improve that.
This is another case in a long list of cases, and it is about not just misogyny but race and homophobia. When Sadiq Khan called in the then commissioner and asked her to produce a report about what she was going to do, rather than doing her work she walked out the door, and she had the backing of this Government, rather than their backing Sadiq Khan. Now that we know this is a systemic problem in the Metropolitan police and probably among police around the country, is it time that we moved disciplinary matters away from the police force concerned and allowed women and other victims to be able to report to an independent service when it is regarding a police officer, without fear or favour and without fear that it will be covered up?
It is important that we ensure that whatever disciplinary process is in place actually works. It is clear that there are serious questions about the efficacy of the process, the time it takes and the process-heavy experience, and that ultimately bureaucracy and procedure are prevailing over ethics and common sense. We need to ensure that the system is fit for purpose and that police officers who fall short in their behaviour are dismissed.
This is a policing issue, but it is not just a matter for policing: it is also a societal issue and about how we deal with predators who are determined and devious. The issue is fundamentally about safeguarding and the professional misjudgments that are made that allow this behaviour to go unreported. Will the Home Secretary raise with her Cabinet colleagues the issue of safeguarding and the need for it to cut across all policy areas to ensure that vulnerable people are protected?
We have a designated Minister for Safeguarding, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales (Miss Dines), who is sitting alongside me. In the Home Office we definitely prioritise the welfare of women and girls and victims of crime more generally. A huge project of work is ongoing and there are important relationships with stakeholders. It is important that there is confidence among victims and that those who are directly affected by these heinous crimes are supported by the criminal justice system in the maximum possible way.
I thank very much the Home Secretary for outlining her plan of action to respond in a positive and strong way. Trust in the police is an essential component of the justice system. Although it is clear that trust has broken down, we cannot forget that there is an overwhelming number of decent and solid policemen and policewomen in our forces throughout the United Kingdom. It may take some work to rebuild trust in the screening process, so how does the Home Secretary intend to ensure that all local forces implement the lessons learned in the Met to restore confidence? Confidence restored is what we need.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is now a large amount of work for not only the Met but the wider policing family to do to restore and rebuild trust and confidence among the general public and women and girls. I visited some local forces, including Kent police before Christmas. Kent is a very good example: the force is really leading from the front, instituting a whole raft of operational measures to support victims of serious sexual offences and rape, and rebuilding trust with local communities. So it is possible and I am heartened by the progress I see around the country.