It has been a long time in gestation. It was back in February when I discovered a dropbox belonging to one Kevin Hurley, then Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey. Mr Hurley, at that time, had been rather keen to dispense with the services of Lynne Owens as his Chief Constable. He accused her of ‘moral cowardice’ and of blaming others for a ‘litany of failures’
She had responded by instigating a policy that she would now prefer to distance herself from. It was ‘arrest first, investigate afterwards’. Since the story has appeared in the mainstream media this week – first the Sunday Times, then the Telegraph, today the Daily Mail, Ms Owens had made a number of comments:
An NCA source said that the comments were not necessarily direct quotes and were part of a discussion on the safe-guarding of victims in the wake of a rape review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Surrey Police have also commented:
Surrey police also said the timing of an arrest was considered on a “case by case basis.”
At that time, my article contained a link to that dropbox; however, before the mainstream media could verify my account, that dropbox disappeared. Kevin Hurley was replaced as PCC by David Munro, and Lynne Owens went off to become Director-General of the National Crime Agency – she is now on a shortlist of two, the other being Cressida Dick, to replace Bernard Hogan-Howe as Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
Several people who had found themselves on the wrong end of this policy had saved copies of the correspondence concerning ‘arrest first’, investigate afterwards – so you may judge for yourself whether, as Ms Owens would have you believe, they were direct quotes or not. Here is the missing document, preserved for posterity.
You can also see here, in a letter dated September 28th that Ms owens took ‘personal responsibility’ for ‘corporate promotion’ of ‘earlier arrest’ – moving away from the previous ‘culture’ of ‘delayed’ voluntary interviews.
You may also wish to consider for yourself whether Surrey Police are being entirely truthful when they say that ‘arrest first’ is considered on a ‘case by case’ basis. You see, until yesterday, there was on their website an interesting item; to wit:
Feel free to plough your way through Code G of the PACE regulations, handily linked to here: to see if you can find the bit of PACE that says you need the authority of your Detective Inspector to dismiss the possibility of voluntary attendance…the guidance to Surrey Police Officers was clear enough up until last night – if it is a sexual offence, whether historic or not, ‘arrest first’.
Following the publication of the story in the Sunday Times, and Lynne Owens attempting to wriggle out of responsibility, this guidance has mysteriously vanished. I do have a copy.
This does matter because of the sheer weight of numbers of people being ‘arrested first’ by Surrey Police (amongst others) and then it being found that either there is no crime committed, or there being ‘insufficient evidence‘ to charge them with any crime.
Surrey has a population of 1.6 million, give or take. Roughly 30,000 of the adult population in Britain have faced arrest for sexual offences in the last year. In Surrey that would amount to some 5/600 people.
There have been 1263 crimes reported this year compared to 829 crimes for the same period last year (an increase of 52.4%). Out of the 1263 offences this year, 628 are non recent, historic offences (49.7%). The increase in sexual offences is thought to be due to growing confidence amongst victims that police will treat their complaints seriously as well as a more victim-focused and ethical crime recording processes that means more sexual offences are being recorded appropriately and sooner.
OK, so Surrey have more people walking in their door feeling confident that the police will take seriously their complaint of sexual abuse. They cheerfully rush out and arrest whoever has been named as the perpetrator. Then what happens?
The positive outcome rate for serious sexual offences remains an area of focus and concern for the Force. A 15.1% positive outcome rate (191 positive outcomes) has been recorded across the Force and is the same as this period last year. There has been a steady improvement in performance and whilst the number of positive outcomes has increased year on year (191 compared to 131), the increasing in recorded crime has outstripped this increase.
Even if we take the figure of 635 offences of a ‘non historic nature’ where part of the problem could be that the perpetrator is dead (last year roughly 10% of the people ‘under investigation by Operation Hydrant’ were dead and buried!) so I will generously ignore the ‘historic offences’, that still leaves us with 444 people who have been subjected to ‘arrest first’, investigate later, on the basis of someone making an allegation.
Whilst it is true that a few of those allegations may have been withdrawn because of intimidation, I am holding information that some of them were downright ‘opportunistic allegations’ and one at least was a false arrest without any investigation – and more to the point, even if the allegation had been genuine, without any jurisdiction!
Now one of my commentators has made a formal complaint to the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner demanding an investigation into the policy of ‘arrest first’.
This in itself will prove interesting – both the Deputy Chief Constable, the Crime Commissioner and the Assistant Chief Constable were at that meeting when Lynne Owens laid out the policy for which she takes full ‘personal responsibility’ for instilling as a ‘corporate promotion’, and none of them even questioned whether this policy might be legitimate, so they would inevitably be investigating themselves. One of the criteria for a complaint being passed from the PCC to the IPCC is:
Any attempt to pervert the course of justice or other conduct likely seriously to harm the administration of justice, in particular the criminal justice system.
If the IPCC become involved, we face the prospect of one of our most senior police officers finding themselves under investigation by the IPCC.
My commentator, who has instigated this investigation, spent four weeks on bail, with all the commensurate embarrassment, humiliation, and expense of retaining solicitors beforethe police got round to discovering, on interviewing the ‘victim’ that a) she hadn’t ‘not consented’ to sex, and b) the ‘rape’ she had reported was alleged to have occurred some years before in another jurisdiction. The arresting officer happily quoted (in writing)
“It does not matter where in the world the offence took place as we have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute offences of rape no matter where in the world the offence took place as per Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.”
It might have helped if he had read the section:
Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes it an offence for a UK national to commit an act outside the UK, against a child, which would constitute a relevant sexual offence if done in England and Wales.
The woman concerned was nowhere near to being ‘a child’!
Four weeks later he received the bleak:
Once the enquiries were completed the case was reviewed and it was established that there was not a realistic likelihood of prosecution at court and so your bail was cancelled and no further action was taken against you.
Now you know what no ‘realistic likelihood of prosecution at court‘ actually means….er, no offence was committed and we had no jurisdiction anyway.
If you are reading this, and are one of the many hundreds of men arrested by Surrey police for serious sexual offences under this policy but not charged after investigation – now is the time to get in touch. Those of you already in contact with me, I will continue to update you.