800 sexual misconduct allegations against police in three years

Police forces in England, Scotland and Wales received nearly 800 allegations of sexual misconduct by police officers over three years, including reports of rape and sexual assault, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.

The reports include 29 rapes and 149 cases of sexual assault, abuse or other sexual offences. The most serious cases included an officer alleged to have raped a child, three officers reported for crimes relating to indecent images of children, and another accused of “grooming a young female”.

Many of the accusations were about officers’ alleged behaviour during searches in custody and arrests. One woman reported an officer “touched her vagina when he searched her”; another that her nipple was pinched by an officer restraining her; and another that “an officer grabbed her breast while trying to force her into a police car”. One man alleged “the custody sergeant touched his testicles while searching him”.

While the majority of the 789 allegations were made by members of the public, more than 40% were lodged by other police employees. More than 90% of the accused officers were men.

Four officers were reported for indecent exposure, one for revenge porn and one for filming himself having sex without the woman’s consent. There were three allegations of stalking and another 148 of sexual harassment, including unwanted contact or advances, sexualised comments and behaviour, and sharing inappropriate images.

There were 57 allegations of officers abusing their position for sexual gain with members of the public, where a lack of consent was implied.

The data was gathered via freedom of information requests and covered the years 2018-2020. Some of the largest forces – including the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester and West Midlands police – did not respond to our requests. The Bureau asked for all “allegations” of sexual misconduct by officers. As each force records its data differently, some of the allegations relate to multiple officers, and multiple allegations can relate to a single officer.

Among forces that shared their data on the criminal outcomes of complaints, nearly 4% of the allegations led to a charge and 3% in a conviction.

Not all of the allegations were of a criminal nature – many related to inappropriate behaviour at work, such as comments to fellow staff members, or having sex at work. Among forces that shared their disciplinary outcomes, a fifth of total allegations led to the officer losing their job, either through dismissal or resignation. A further tenth led to a written warning.

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Read the investigation

Reporters: Alexandra Heal and Sarah Haque
Investigations editor: Meirion Jones
Production editor: Frankie Goodway
Fact checker: Alice Milliken
Illustration: Danny Noble

This report was supported by core Bureau funds. None of our funders have any influence over the Bureau’s editorial decisions or output.

Header illustration: Police officers loom over two women talking in a café