Custody Scandal: TVP vs NYP
by TIM HICKS
Introduction: The North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Custody Scandal
Regular readers will know that the NYE has doggedlybeen pursuing a gang of NYP Officers who serve in NYP’s Custody Suites, who – according to a Custody Inspection – have been looking at women detainees while they are semi-naked in the cells.
The presence of a male Officer in a cell with a woman in a state of undress when there is no need for it is a form of sexual abuse and a despicable abuse of authority.
If the detainees were underage, it is paedophilism.
So in my view the male Officers that enter cells and gawp at undressed female detainees should have been arrested and charged with voyeurism in the normal way, as should the Custody Sergeants that allowed this despicable behaviour to occur.
Yet no action has been taken.
Now there has been a voyeurism scandal involving abuse of a detainee in Thames Valley Police (TVP)
The TVP Voyeurism Scandal
According to this BBC Article, a woman who was the victim of an assault was mistakenly arrested and had a seizure in a police vehicle, during which her chest and groin were exposed. Police officers present had their body cameras on, which recorded the detainee semi-nude. She was taken to a hospital and no charges were pressed.
The next day, Officers at Newbury Police Station who were unconnected with the incident and had no need to view this material watched the body cam video of the semi-naked detainee and made derogatory comments about her body. It should be remembered that the detainee was a victim of crime, had been wrongfully arrested, was seriously ill and was being transported to hospital.
These comments are so crude, that I am not going to repeat them.
The Approaches of TVP and NYP compared
A TVP Student Officer who was – understandably – shocked by this despicable conduct reported it to his superiors. The Student Officer alleges that (as with NYP) there was a cover-up, so no action was taken against the Officers concerned and (again as with NYP) and he was forced out in retaliation for exposing the scandal. Likewise, NYP has permanently proscribed the NYE in retaliation for exposing multiple scandals particularly police involvement in the Peter Jaconelli/Jimmy Savile paedophile scandal.
So the response of both forces was essentially the same.
The BBC also alleged it uncovered other instances of bodycam footage being misused.
- Bedfordshire Police deleted footage of a woman alleging an inspector had raped her.
- An Avon & Somerset Officer shared a nude image with colleagues on email.
When the BBC asked all Forces for records they held scrutinising the use of cameras – through information requests, only Merseyside Police provided an extensive dataset. Again the BBC experience mirrors the NYE’s. On 22nd January 2023, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Zoë Metcalfe, the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire:
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:
- What is the Commissioners policy on prosecuting police officers that sexually abuse detainees in this way for voyeurism?
- Which custody suites did these offences take place in and when?
- What were the ages of the detainees that were forced to undress in front of male officers?
- What are the names and police numbers of the officers that committed these acts of sexual abuse?
- What are the names and police numbers of the Custody Officers that allowed male officers to watch, while female detainees were undressed?
- What action has been taken to prohibit this practice?
- Why were the officers concerned not arrested, charged with voyeurism in the normal way and suspended from duty?
Commissioner Metcalfe simply ignored my FOI request.
Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigates TVP
The TVP detainee’s seizure while in police custody had to be reported to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). However, TVP did not refer the Officers’ viewing of the footage showing the victim in a state of undress and ridiculing her for investigation by the IOPC. It was covered up.
Following the BBC investigation, the IOPC confirmed that TVP had referred the Officers’ to the IOPC. The same action that Commissioner Metcalfe and Chief Constable Winward should have taken when I first raised this issue in November 2022.
Clearly, TVP has only referred itself to the IOPC because of media criticism from the BBC, which is a far more powerful media outlet than the NYE. Hence, NYP has been able to get away with a cover-up into abuse of detainees while TVP had to cave in.
Nevertheless, this still demonstrates how important it is that the police are subjected to scrutiny by a free press.
Responses of the TVP and NYP Commissioners compared
Commissioner Metcalfe is responsible for holding NYP to account. She does not deny that there has been sexual abuse of vulnerable women by NYP Officers, but has responded to this situation by refusing to comment – thereby evading her duty to tackle it.
Conversely, the TVP Commissioner takes his duties seriously and holds TVP to account. His office released this forthright statement to the NYE from Commissioner Matthew Barber:
“The allegations broadcast on the BBC (30/1) are incredibly concerning, not only about the misuse of body worn video but the allegation that a whistle-blower was then dismissed for having made those reports. The Force position is that the officer was dismissed on entirely separate grounds having been given a different supervisor.
These allegations run completely contrary to the culture I would expect from Thames Valley Police and will inevitably impact public confidence.
I have asked the Chief Constable for a full written explanation of the events surrounding these allegations and the safeguarding of whistle-blowers.
The matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).”
The question then arises why can’t North Yorkshire taxpayers have the same responsible and effective response from Commissioner Metcalfe that Thames Valley electors have from Commissioner Barber?
The Wider Issue
Commissioner Metcalfe’s inaction is part of a wider problem in the Police Service. The entire country was shocked when PC Wayne Couzens was convicted of using his Warrant Card to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard in March 2021. Couzens’ offending started with offences of indecent exposure. He was well known to the Police Service as a sexual offender. Despite this he was protected, until his offending eventually escalated to rape and murder.
Failure to hold the Police to account inevitably leads to a culture of impunity amongst those few Police Officers who are inclined to abuse their positions, leading to more serious crimes.
If you or I went into the ladies changing rooms in a gym and looked at the women while they were undressed, we would be arrested for voyeurism. Yet these Custody Officers have been protected. It appears that because these offences are committed by Police Officers within a Police Station, they can abuse women with impunity.
The NYP officers observed in the inspection ogling semi-naked women detainees in the cells are probably still working in custody and probably still abusing women in this way, because they are operating in a culture of impunity, fostered by the refusal of the Chief Constable and Commissioner to act against them. In short, like Couzens, they have protected them.
The wider concern must be that these Officers may be at the beginning of an escalating pattern of offending.
NYP, Commissioner Metcalfe and the Police Fire and Crime Panel for North Yorkshire were provided with a draft of this article and invited to comment.
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