In the wake of the conviction and sentence of Wayne Couzens who was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of 33 year old Sarah Everard there have been in increase of reports made by members of the public against serving police officers who have allegedly abused their powers to obtain sexual gratification from vulnerable women. Two thirds of these cases investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) between 2018 and 2021 took place in the past year. Alleged sexual offences concerning professionals often always result in an independent regulatory investigation whether the suspect be a police officer, doctor, nurse or teacher.
Last year there were 70 IOPC probes of police officers and staff over allegations of abuse of position for sexual purposes as opposed to 10 in 2016 and we anticipate this number will only continue to increase.
The deeply disturbing case of Sarah Everard has raised public awareness of their rights when approached by the police. It has also encouraged other women to speak out about sexual abuse they have allegedly suffered by serving police officers and other professionals, leading to a rise in prosecutions and convictions.
When a professional is investigated in relation to a criminal offence it is not only the police that they will deal with, their professional regulators also become involved and carry out their own independent investigation. This only adds to the stress of a police investigation and increases the number of people who the suspect is answerable to.
The IOPC in particular are responsible for investigating the most serious and sensitive incidents and allegations involving police officers. They are independent of the police and the government. Most complaints about police officers are dealt with by the relevant police force, each force have their own professional standards departments that deal with complaints. However, certain matters such as allegations of sexual assaults must be referred to the IOPC.
During an IOPC investigation the officers will take an approach similar to that of the police such as:
- Taking witness statements
- Interviewing police officers or other members of police staff
- Obtaining and analysing any video footage of alleged assaults (where available)
- Obtaining any other relevant documents and records
- Obtain independent forensic analysis (where required)
Following an IOPC investigation a report is produced and it is likely that disciplinary hearings are held which can result in a number of actions being taken leading to devastating consequences for the suspect.
The suspect will be required to attend disciplinary hearings and may even be interviewed by their regulators to give their account in response to the complaint, of course anything said by the suspect during these hearings is recorded and could be used against them in the police investigation. It is therefore incredibly important that defence solicitors are also involved in matters concerning a suspects regulators to ensure both investigations run alongside each other and all information remains consistent and the suspects rights are protected.
What we can do for you
During a police investigation our role is to protect and advance a suspects rights. We do this by ensuring all correspondence to and from the police goes through ourselves, rather than the client directly. We obtain pre interview disclosure to assess the strength and weaknesses of any complaints and potential evidence and represent clients in interview, whilst advising our clients at every stage.
PCD Solicitors act for a number of high profile individuals and professionals and are fully aware of the ramifications of such investigations. When preparing a case we take into full consideration the applicable professional bodies such as the General Medical Council, The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the IOPC. We work with regulators to provide details of the criminal investigation and to keep them updated where relevant on how the investigation is proceeding this takes a lot of stress from our clients and ensures the information the regulators are in receipt of is consistent with the information obtained and given to the police.
The investigation carried out by the regulators is unlikely to conclude until the police investigation has.
If you, a family member or friend is currently under police investigation and the investigation of your professional body please contact one of our lawyers to obtain fee and confidential advice. We can explain to you your rights in relation to the police investigation and how this impacts the investigation of you by your professional body.
We always advise clients to obtain employment law advice specifically where professional bodies want to conduct disciplinary hearings and or interviews.