“Who would believe you?”: the shocking truth of police abuse against women
Cops on Trial: Dispatches is a new Channel 4 documentary that investigates the disturbing reality of police misconduct following the murder of Sarah Everard.
This article contains themes of sexual assault and rape which some readers may find upsetting.
“Who would believe you over me?”
In 2019, model Lizzie booked onto a four-hour shoot with an amateur photographer. “An hour in, I felt strange,” she said. “About halfway through the shoot, I noticed an alarm clock which had a different time. He [the photographer] saw me look at it and said, ‘Oh, it’s an odd clock because there’s a different time on it’.”
Feeling suspicious, Lizzie went to the bathroom, Googled the brand of clock and was shocked to discover that it was a covert video camera. “I felt really angry and sad, because I thought that if I let on that I knew, he would freak out,” she continued. “I had visions of him clobbering me over the head as I left. Then I had to endure two more hours [of the shoot]. He kept trying to get explicit images of me that I hadn’t consented to and he kept positioning me in front of the clock.”
Lizzie reported him to the police and discovered that he was a senior detective in the Metropolitan Police. “I was really shocked and I immediately burst into tears. I was in serious danger. To think that the same person who is there to protect me has done this makes me really upset.”
The police raided Detective Inspector Neil Corbel’s home, where they found over 130 hours of hidden camera footage, from which they identified over 51 women. He was charged with 19 counts of voyeurism and is due to be sentenced this month.
This is just one disturbing account featured in Dispatches: Cops On Trial, a Channel 4 documentary investigating the shocking reality of police violence against women. The investigation by reporter Ellie Flynn reveals that more than 2,000 police officers, specials and community support officers have been accused of sexual impropriety. However, only eight per cent of allegations led to the dismissal, while two-thirds led to no action at all.
It’s a timely investigation, coming just a fortnight after Wayne Couzens was handed a life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard. He was a serving Metropolitan Police officer at the time.
But while the Metropolitan Police have gone to great lengths to portray Couzens as just one bad apple, this documentary suggests attitudes towards women within the police are rotten to the core.
Freedom of information requests by Channel 4 reveals a slew of allegations against serving police officers, including 370 incidents of sexual assault, 100 accusations of rape and 18 child sex offences over the past four years across every force in the country. Research conducted by Bournemouth University found that of those who were victims of police officers, 40 per cent were victims of domestic abuse, 20 per cent had mental health issues and 25 per cent had experienced previous sexual assault, suggesting that some police officers are deliberately targeting vulnerable women.
Sasha was raped and assaulted by a man after a night out in Preston, Lancashire. Her mother called the police and Detective Constable Jatinder Bunger went to Sasha’s house to make a statement, taking her phone as evidence after she showed him the images she took of her bruises. Then, she received a letter from the police. “I had to go for an interview at Blackpool police station and they wanted me to go through all the images they had on a laptop and confirm if they were me.”
Sasha was disturbed when she discovered that the images the police had weren’t concerned with the rape allegation, but were personal photos on her phone. “There were pictures of me in sexy underwear, as well as pictures and videos of me naked. I remember having this sick feeling in my stomach and feeling really ashamed and embarrassed,” she said. “There wouldn’t have been anyone else except that officer [who had access to them] because I didn’t speak to anyone but him. I was so vulnerable at the time and it really hurt me that someone in that role [as a police officer] would do this to me.”
The case took four years to investigate. In 2018, DC Bunger was charged with three counts of misconduct in public office following an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation, after it was revealed that he sought relationships with two vulnerable women he met during the course of his duties. He was also charged with taking or obtaining photographs of four other women without their consent. He was sentenced to ten months in prison. “It was dragged out for so long,” Sasha continued. “It’s been emotionally draining. I was hospitalised after I took numerous overdoses. It’s been really hard.”
Louise Rolfe, the National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Violence and Public Protection, said: “We are really concerned to hear about every single one of these allegations. We absolutely must, in policing, get to the bottom of what might have been behind these cases.
“Anybody in policing who faces misconduct proceedings that serious would cause all kinds of concerns for us, but if there is no legal avenue open to us, we would be really cautious about the way someone is employed and the monitoring and support we might put around that individual and their colleagues to prevent anything happening again.
“We have robust systems… but we’re not getting it right enough of the time. We know very sadly, a small number of people are attracted to policing because of the power, the control and the opportunity it affords them.”
Cops on Trial: Dispatches is available to watch on All4