The Metropolitan Police recruited a man as a special constable last year despite him having a pre-existing criminal record for indecently exposing himself to a female.
By Daniel Foggo, Katherine Rushton
The revelation that the Met is letting sex offenders join its ranks is the latest problem for the UK’s largest police force, after one of its serving officers was charged over the killing of marketing executive Sarah Everard in March.
Wayne Couzens, a firearms-trained officer with the Met, is awaiting trial on charges of kidnap and murder.
The disclosure relating to a new recruit having a past as a sex offender prompted calls for the rules on police recruiting to be reviewed. Harriet Wistrich, a leading advocate for justice for women, said that employing a known sex offender as a police officer was “hugely concerning”.
“I think sex offences are really disturbing,’ she said. “There should be a bar on accepting convictions for sex offences.”
Multiple Met recruits have criminal records
Within the past three years, the Met also took on new recruits with records for actual bodily harm (ABH), multiple possession of the class A drug cocaine, drunk and disorderly, and assault. All the recruits, including the sex offender, are still serving with the force.
The disclosures, made in response to a freedom of information request from this newspaper, were echoed by those from other police forces, with a dozen constabularies revealing 78 officers – including special constables – with criminal records for serious offences.
Since 2018, Avon and Somerset Police has employed four officers with prior convictions or cautions for theft, one with a criminal record of fraud and another with a history of arson and criminal damage.
Leicestershire Police admitted that over the same period it has recruited seven new officers with criminal records for offences including distributing indecent photographs – for which the officer received a youth caution – sending an obscene or offensive message and causing public fear or alarm. All the officers were given cautions or fixed penalty notices at the time of their offences.
In Surrey, there are 30 serving officers ranging in rank from constable to detective superintendent with criminal convictions or cautions. Their offences range from possession of an offensive weapon and carrying a blade, to assault, ABH and affray. Their convictions date from as far back as 1983 to as recently as last year. Twenty-one officers had committed offences prior to joining the force.
Conviction for exposure may not be a bar to joining force
The Authorised Professional Practice on Vetting, issued earlier this year by the College of Policing, which advises UK forces on good practice, states that any candidate who has been a registered sex offender should never be allowed to become a police officer. Nor should any offender who received a custodial sentence, even if they committed their crime as a juvenile.
However, someone convicted of exposure, which replaced the offence of indecent exposure in 2003, could escape being made to sign the Sex Offenders Register if they had been only cautioned.
The APP guidance also states that: “Particular care should be taken where an individual has been convicted of (or cautioned for) offences of dishonesty, corrupt practice or violence.