Monday 26th February 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Custody Scandal: Couzens, Carrick and NYP

Custody Scandal: Couzens, Carrick and NYP

by TIM HICKS

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Introduction: Couzens and Carrick

The entire country was shocked when a serving Police Constable was convicted of using his Warrant Card to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard in March 2021.

Couzens was well known to the police service as a sexual offender with a history of incidents of indecent exposure which were not investigated properly since 2015. He had to be called back from patrol to his police station because a prostitute was at his Police Station demanding money from him for services she had rendered and which he had refused to pay for. He took a prostitute to a police social function and was known for targeting lone women for traffic stops. Despite this, he passed police vetting and re-vetting with no problems. His nickname at his the Police Station was “Rapist” reflecting his propensity for offending against women.

Despite this, the blue wall held firm and several officers gave character references for Couzens during his sentencing hearings, to try and get a reduced sentence for him.

Two other officers were subsequently jailed for sharing grossly offensive messages about rape and racism with Couzens on a WhatsApp group.

The public was given the usual Bravo Sierra that Couzens was a one off, lessons had been learned, a full review had been undertaken, standards had been tightened up and it could never happen again etc. etc. So it came as no surprise to the author, when there was another case of a Police Constable serial sexual offender.

PC David Carrick pleaded guilty to forty nine sex offences including twenty four rapes. He was accused of rape days after Couzens was convicted and wasn’t even suspended from duty. He had nine allegations of serious offences made against him during his service and – like Couzens – he nevertheless sailed through police vetting and re-vetting with no problems. Empowering him to rape women with impunity. His nickname in the station was “Bastard Dave” reflecting his penchant for cruelty.

So what is the situation with NYP?

Sexual abuse of detainees in NYP custody suites by NYP Officers

NYP’s custody suites were jointly inspected by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission in 2010 2015 and 2022.

The inspection was damning and identified fifteen areas for improvement with sixty individual points of improvement. In response, NYP issued a statement on its website from Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett which only acknowledged “that some processes, such as the recording of information, are not of the highest possible standard.” But that “We are pleased the HMICFRS has recognised we have good measures in place to oversee the safe and respectful provision of custody.” In short ACC Foskett misrepresented the findings of the report. This is analysed in this NYE article Custody 1

Both inspections discovered evidence of sexual abuse of detainees by NYP officers. 

2.15 We had some concerns about the treatment of women, specifically when they were forced to wear anti-rip suits (to prevent the use of clothing as ligatures).…….male officers were in a woman’s cell while she was being put into anti-rip clothing when their presence was not appropriate.

 In a separate case, we observed CCTV footage where a woman had her clothing forcibly removed and was partially naked in the presence of male officers with little, if any, consideration of maintaining her dignity. On discussing this matter with police managers, there was no rational explanation for the presence of these male officers in the cell.

4.24 ………….In most incidents we reviewed on CCTV, force was proportionate to the risks posed and was de-escalated reasonably quickly. However, in one incident there were insufficient efforts to de-escalate, and in another a woman detainee was forcibly required to wear anti-rip clothing with insufficient attention to maintaining her dignity and with male staff present when she was partially naked, which was inappropriate and unnecessary. We referred both incidents to the criminal justice chief inspector.”

some practices are disrespectful, particularly when detainee clothing is removed.

[My emphasis in bold] 

The presence of a male officer in a cell with a woman in a state of undress when there is absolutely no justification or need for it is a form of sexual abuse and an abuse of authority. If the detainees were underage, it smacks of paedophilism.

The findings of both reports taken together are indicative of an ongoing culture of sexual abuse by a ring of predatory NYP police officers.

Couzens offending started with offences of indecent exposure. The first allegation against Carrick was of harassment and their offending escalated from there. The clear implication of this is that police officers that commit sexual offences -even if they are at the lower end of the scale of offending- have to be stamped on hard and dismissed the service. Before they proceed to more serious offending.

In my view, the officers present (male and female) that allowed male officers enter a cell and gawp at an undressed female detainee should have been arrested and charged with voyeurism in the normal way. Yet no action was taken. In short -like Carrick and Couzens- they were protected.

The wider concern must be that this may be the beginning of an escalating pattern of offending by the officers, who have unfettered access to vulnerable female detainees.

Custody is a very difficult, responsible and complex role. It is also dangerous and stressful, requiring contact with people that are various combinations of violent, vulnerable, abusive, unhygienic, injured and/or distressed. The vast majority of NYPs Custody Officers do their jobs well and to the highest standards. However, occasionally someone lets the side down and when this happens senior police officers have to face up to the situation and take action, not protect their colleagues.

NYP statement

Commendably, NYP has issued a statement designed to address these issues and reassure the public:

North Yorkshire Police response to misconduct allegations (Extract)

North Yorkshire Police takes all misconduct allegations extremely seriously and are very aware of the serious damage caused to trust in the police service by recent events in the Metropolitan Police.

The force has taken a number of measures to improve its already robust vetting process to root out those people who are not fit to serve. 

North Yorkshire Police is one of the few forces that handle complaints independently through the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner’s office to provide an additional level of scrutiny. 

The force has recently led a national pilot scheme that checks all vetted staff against the Police National Database (PND) every month. This process was implemented to ensure that any police contact outside of North Yorkshire is brought to the attention of our Vetting Unit and Professional Standards Department. This covers both police officers and police staff. 

A recent report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Fire and Rescue Service following an inspection of vetting, misconduct, and misogyny in the police service, highlighted the good work by North Yorkshire Police and recommended that all forces make routine use of the PND as a tool for revealing any unreported adverse information about police officers and staff. It was announced this week that all forces in England and Wales will be adopting this approach.

The vast majority of our officers and staff are honest, hardworking and act with integrity. But we are not complacent and know that there will be a number within our force who are not. When misconduct is found, we will take action. We encourage anyone who has any concerns about an officer or staff member they have come into contact with, to please report it to us.

[My emphasis in bold] 

However, the reality is very different.

Since I started raising this issue I have been faced with a wall of silence. Again the blue wall has closed ranks. Neither Chief Constable Winward (pictured top left) or Commissioner Metcalfe (top right) will comment. Neither denies that there has been sexual abuse of vulnerable women by NYP Officers. They just refuse to acknowledge it, respond to media enquiries or do anything about it – the exact opposite of the statement on the Force website.

Nevertheless, the NYE will continue to pursue this issue. I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to try and identify the officers concerned.

“FOI REQUEST. SEXUAL ABUSE OF DETAINEES BY OFFICERS OF NORTH YORKSHIRE POLICE

In response to the concerns raised by the 2015 and 2022 HMICFRS inspections of custody suites which identified that officers were watching while female detainees were undressed, when there was no need for them to be there. Please can you confirm:

    1. What is the Commissioners policy on prosecuting police officers that sexually abuse detainees in this way for voyeurism?
    1. Which custody suites did these offences take place in and when?
    1. What were the ages of the detainees that were forced to undress in front of male officers?
    1. What are the names and police numbers of the officers that committed these acts of sexual abuse?
    1. What are the names and police numbers of the Custody Officers that allowed male officers to watch, while female detainees were undressed?
    1. What action has been taken to prohibit this practice?
    1. Why were the officers concerned not arrested, charged with voyeurism in the normal way and suspended from duty?”

I will report back on the response in due course.

In the meantime, the concern must be that these officers are still working in custody and the practice of allowing male officers to watch while female detainees are being undressed is still permitted.

Appeal for Witnesses

If you have had a bad experience while in NYP Custody,  please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address. All responses will be in strictest confidence.

Other articles in the NYE’s custody investigation series

Right of Reply

NYP and Commissioner Metcalfe were provided with a draft of this article and invited to comment. NYP and Commissioner Metcalfe both used their joint policy of proscribing the NYE, to evade their duty to comment.

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or if you wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and a correction will be published if appropriate.

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