Northumbria Police formally investigated more than two-thirds of sexual misconduct complaints against officers last year

Exclusive: Sixty-seven percent of sexual misconduct complaints against officers at Northumbria Police ended in a formal investigation.

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Eighteen complaints of sexual misconduct were made against Northumbria Police personnel last year, with 12 of them resulting in a formal investigation.

The data can be revealed following a NationalWorld freedom of information (FOI) request to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), the authority responsible for overseeing the handling of complaints made against police forces in England and Wales.

There are three ways in which sexual misconduct complaints are dealt with, which are the following:

  • ‘Outside of Schedule 3’: Complaints are dealt with informally and are not formally recorded. This method cannot lead to misconduct or criminal proceedings.
  • ‘Schedule 3 – not investigated’: This method sees complaints be formally recorded but are not subjected to a formal investigation. As a result, it cannot lead to misconduct or criminal proceedings.
  • ‘Schedule 3 – investigated’: Complaints are formally recorded and subjected to an investigation. This is the only method that can lead to misconduct and criminal proceedings.

During 2021/22, five sexual misconduct claims made against Northumbria Police were finalised outside of Schedule 3, one was finalised through Schedule 3 – not investigated, and 12 finalised through Schedule 3 – investigated.

NationalWorld’s FOI request included a “complaint type” breakdown for each of the three methods used to deal with such matters.

For the five sexual misconduct complaints dealt with outside of Schedule 3, three of them related to sexual assault and two were related to “other sexual conduct”.

The one complaint that was dealt with via Schedule 3 – not investigated was in relation to a sexual assault.

Out of the 12 complaints that did reach a formal investigation, six related to sexual assault, three for “other sexual conduct”, two for sexual harassment, and one for abuse of position for sexual purposes.

Following the release of the data, a spokesperson for the IOPC said: “Recent legislative reforms have had the expected impact of increasing the number of complaints made to police forces.

“Because of the changes in complaints legislation and new recording guidance, our annual complaints statistics are presently termed experimental.

“The vast majority of the 120,000 allegations overall received each year are dealt with by forces themselves and are only referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) if they meet criteria set out in law.

“Police forces are responsible for ensuring complaints are recorded and handled appropriately in line with guidance, with local oversight also provided by Police and Crime Commissioners.

“The statutory guidance does allow police forces to handle complaints in a range of ways and outside of investigation in certain circumstances, including those that may be repeated, spurious, or vexatious. However, we would expect the majority of serious allegations made to be subject to investigations.

“As part of our work on the theme of Violence against Women and Girls, which includes sexual misconduct, we are examining what matters forces refer to ensure they make us aware of all appropriate cases.

“For those cases handled by forces themselves, we will be dip sampling cases to check whether forces are dealing with these allegations appropriately, in line with the legislation, and with appropriate levels of victim care.”

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