If The Detective Coleman-Farrow Case Tells Us Anything, It's That The Police Still Don't 'Get' Rape And Sexual Assault

Our justice system is far from perfect, and now an almighty police cock-up means that 11 men suspected of rape and sexual assault are still at large.
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Our justice system is far from perfect, and now an almighty police cock-up means that 11 men suspected of rape and sexual assault are still at large.

Musing on quite how shoddy our justice system can be

Musing on quite how shoddy our justice system can be

Since xoJane UK launched in June, a number of writers have shared their stories of of sexual assaults and rape, some shocking, all infuriating. One of the first stories featured was mine – I wrote about how I took my sexual assailant to court, and he walked free.

The thing is, people still believe that if someone rapes, or sexually assaults another person, they will automatically go to jail. After all, we have a great justice system and the system works, right?

I agree we have a great justice system in comparison to other countries, but as a former lawyer, and a victim of assault, I can safely say that when it comes to sex crimes, it’s far from perfect. And we've just had another reminder of quite how imperfect it is. 

Two weeks ago Detective Coleman-Farrow, a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police pleaded guilty to 13 cases of misconduct when investigating sex crimes between the years of 2007 and 2010. The ex-detective worked in Sapphire Unit, set up as a specialised sex crimes unit.

He falsified paperwork, failed to submit forensic evidence and falsely told alleged victims of sexual assault their cases had been dropped when this was not true.

His misconduct only came to light two years ago, when a sex worker complained about the way her case was handled after claiming a client was stalking her in 2009. She then took her own life in a suicide pact.

Her case is not one of the 13 which the detective is now being prosecuted for, but it was this case that lead the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) to begin an investigation.

The ex-detective is due to be sentenced on 11 October, and has never fully clarified why he failed to investigate cases correctly, and in some cases falsified evidence. Coleman-Farrow cited ill health as an explanation for his actions, but only he will know exactly why he did what he did. 

What it does mean is that that 11 men suspected of rape and sexual assault are at large, and the cases will now never be investigated. 

The Met Police have alleged that these were the actions of one rogue officer, that he acted on his own and that his actions are not indicative of the actions and views of the police as a whole.

There are a number of things that don’t ring true here. For starters, how can one man reach this level of apparent incompetence, as well as carry out deliberate acts of sabotage without it being picked up on earlier?

Surely his colleagues or superiors would have suspected something - and if not why not???

These were not minor errors, he faked witnesses and pretended that potential victims of sexual assault had withdrawn complaints when they simply hadn’t.

To make matters worse, this was a unit which was set up as a model on how to deal with sex crimes and an example to other police units.

So no, I do not think this is a case of one rogue officer - that would be far too convenient, and frankly too unlikely. I think that this goes to the heart of police perception around rape and sex crimes.

This summer, West Mercia Police came under fire with a poster campaign warning people about the consequences of drinking too much.

The ‘safe night out’ campaign featured two posters one aimed at men, one aimed and women.

The poster aimed at women shows a girl first on her way to a night out, and then collapsed in a heap on the end of floor, presumably having too much to drink.

The caption reads; Drink sensibly, get home safely...did you know if you drink you leave yourself to regretful sex or even rape. 

Erm hello?!?! Lets blame the victim - it was your fault you were drinking – also since when was ‘regretful sex’ on par with rape?

Check this beauty out...

Check this beauty out...

The poster aimed at men fairs no better. The caption, Don’t let a night of promise turn into a morning of full of regret, comes with a warning men should not commit sexual assault because they might lose their job and be put on the sex offenders register.

This poster is equally as offensive – firstly, it tells men not to rape because they ‘might lose their job’ not BECAUSE IT’S WRONG, AND VIOLENT AND A CRIME.

Secondly, it’s damn offensive to men – is it trying to say that all men have no morals and are wired to commit sexual offences, but might think twice because they could lose their job?

Ugh

Ugh

How is it that a sex crimes unit, with specialised research, training and systems is getting the basics so wrong? How can it be that the perceptions of rape and sexual assaults within the police are still so out of whack?

I do not think for one second that Detective Coleman-Farrow was a rogue officer who acted alone. This case is indicative of a systematic misunderstanding of sexual crime within the police, who need re-educating at the highest level. 

Again - why are they still getting the basics so wrong?