The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said it sacked nine officers last year for misconduct “which had a s.e.xual or domestic element”. It has also told BBC News NI there are currently 74 ongoing cases, with 32 officers suspended on suspicion of sexual misconduct.
The total includes some cases dating back years. All UK police services have been reviewing vetting and standards following the murder of Sarah Everard.
The Home Office also asked forces in Britain to re-check staff after Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick admitted serious offences against 12 women over two decades. A tougher approach to disciplinary matters was promised by the PSNI a number of months ago.
Last September, launching its first action plan aimed at tackling violence against women and girls, it said the “very highest professional standards” were required to build public trust and confidence in policing. Supt Claire McGuigan, of the PSNI professional standards department, said: “The chief constable’s message is clear.
“Just as we will pursue perpetrators of violence against women and girls in our communities, we are committed to rooting out those that may be in our own ranks.
‘They should have always taken it seriously’ However, there is concern over the number of officers facing domestic and sexual abuse allegations and how the issue has been dealt with to date. I’m disappointed that they are talking about taking it seriously now. They should have always taken it seriously,” Marie Brown, the director of Foyle’s Women’s Aid, said.
“We’re in a time where they know enough about the damage that s.e.xual abuse and sexual crime has on victims. I’m just wondering about the governance and how this was allowed to go on for so long.” Ms Brown told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “There does seem to be a culture of misogyny that needs to be addressed.”
She called for a root and branch review of the PSNI’s handling of domestic and s.e.xual abuse allegations, right back to how it recruits new staff, and continuous vetting of officers throughout their career.
“I’m disappointed for all the good officers that I have worked with, who work really hard in this area, and I feel like they’ve been let down by the governance within their own organisation,” she added. The PSNI has been hit by a number of controversies in the past 12 months.
A civilian employee, Sinead McGrotty, said she was let down by the police after making allegations of sexual assault against a serving officer. Last November, when the Policing Board looked at officer misconduct procedures, it asked for disciplinary processes to be carried out faster. It also urged the PSNI to make better use of its powers to dismiss officers.
Recent figures have shown the number of officers dismissed from the PSNI each year – last year, there were 17 officers sacked from the PSNI in total. That compares to seven sackings in 2021; four in 2020; and three in 2019. The data shows a clear direction of travel.
The question is does this indicate a tougher approach or is it simply that the PSNI is speeding up its disciplinary process? Because we know that some of these cases involve officers being suspended for a considerable period of time.
In other news – Manchester Airport runways reopen after heavy snow
Manchester Airport has resumed operations after both runways had to close for more than two hours due to heavy snow. It said passengers’ health and safety would “always be our top priority”.
The Met Office said Manchester was under a yellow weather warning until 12:00 GMT, with wintry showers expected to bring “further disruption from ice and snow. Learn more