The ability of police to tackle violence against women and girls has again been cast into doubt by new figures that show only 1% of more than 1,500 police officers or staff facing complaints about their treatment of women in a six-month period were sacked.
Data from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) shows there were 524 complaints made by members of the public against 867 officers and staff in England and Wales police forces between October 2021 and March 2022.
Out of the 290 cases resolved, 91% ended with no further action, and no officers or staff were sacked.
During the same six months a further 672 police officers or staff faced conduct allegations relating to violence against women and girls.
So far, only 13 officers and staff have been sacked as a result of those investigations.
The figures have been published following the high profile cases of police officers David Carrick and Wayne Couzens.
Carrick was jailed for life last month for dozens of offences including a series of rapes and sexual assaults.
Couzens murdered Sarah Everard in 2021. It has since emerged that police had failed to act on reports of indecent exposure that could have led to his arrest days before he kidnapped and killed Sarah.
Victims of domestic violence have told Sky News that women have lost confidence in police.
Rachel Williams, who faced 18 years of abuse from her husband and now advocates on behalf of women experiencing domestic violence told Sky News: “People don’t feel safe reporting to police because of everything that’s happened over the last couple of years.
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“I’ve had these cases coming to me. People asking what is the point in disclosing what has happened to them. They ask themselves. Am I disclosing to a decent police officer or am I disclosing to a perpetrator?”
“I think the top priority is for government to actually listen to those that have experienced it and been through it,” she adds.
The data from the NPCC shows that complaints against police officers related to various allegations including sexual harassment, discreditable conduct not in the execution of their duty, and sexual assault.
Sky News was given access to a new domestic abuse resolution team set up by Leicestershire police last September to try to encourage more victims to come forward.
Working alongside a sexual assault referral centre in the city, officers hope to increase rates of conviction of perpetrators.
Detective Superintendent Chris Baker is the Leicestershire police lead for tackling violence against women and girls.
He says there are officers in his force currently under investigation but says “we are dealing with them in a robust way through police regulations and the criminal courts”.
He has been inviting female police officers and staff to share their experiences of the workplace.
“Whether they’ve experienced any kind of harassment, misogyny or sexism, that will be rooted out because there’s absolutely no place in policing for those sorts of attitudes towards women and girls,” he says.
“A really important part of what we do is to bring people to justice because by doing that we safeguard victims.”
Police Sergeant Michelle Goddard has been tasked with tackling the language used by officers when responding to domestic violence calls.
“It’s about acknowledging that using victim blaming or minimising language is absolutely not acceptable but also that it creates a barrier that prevents people from feeling that we are the right people to deal with their complaint,” she told Sky News.
“It prevents them from feeling safe with us and it can create a barrier that prevents them from being able to report at all.”
Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, NPCC co-ordinator for violence against women and girls told Sky News: “We recognise that the trust of women and girls across the country is really, really broken.
“To try and rebuild that trust the data that we’re putting out today is indicative of our accountability to women and girls.
“We want to show that we are indeed shining that light, that we will continue to do so and that we will do all we can to remove people who shouldn’t be working within policing.
“We will do all that we can with other parts of the system to improve the criminal justice response for women and girls who come forward. It’s harrowing to report a domestic abuse or a rape crime. It’s harrowing. We need to make sure that the outcomes for women and girls improve.”