The London Metropolitan Police has announced plans to abandon the practice of “listening and believing” every criminal report about sex crimes following criticism over failed cases brought on by false accusations.
Everyone has a right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
“I arrived saying very clearly that we should have an open mind when a person walks in and we should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them and we should record what they say,” said Met Commissioner Cressida Dick. “From that moment on, we are investigators.”
Her remarks follow the resignation of Alison Saunders, who will not be renewing her contract as the director of public prosecutions for England and Wales when her five-year contract is up in October.
Saunders was blasted after several rape trials collapsed amid allegations that evidence had not been disclosed. Dick says that the police had previously come under fire for “not being open minded enough and sympathetic enough” to alleged victims of sex crimes but noted that it was important for departments to fully investigate each case impartially.
Police officers were criticized for funneling resources into a case about an alleged sex abuse ring in Westminster, called Operation Midland, following allegations by a man whose claims were considered “credible and true” but later deemed false.
According to the English Standard, retired judge Sir Richard Henriques remarked “the presumption of innocence appears to have been set aside” during the police operation.
“I can understand why those who support victims will say, for example, victims must have anonymity in certain areas and it’s very important that offenders don’t have anonymity, because when an offender is named, other people may come forward. We do find that,” said Dick.
“I can equally understand that when you describe somebody as a sex offender or a rapist, their whole world may collapse,” she added. “So it is really, really hard to know what protection should be in place for both. I’m glad there is a debate about it.”
The commissioner says that in the future, the police will not spend a lot of resources on cases that they consider to be “very trivial” or are unlikely to lead to a conviction.
“And what might be a misunderstanding between two people, clumsy behavior between somebody who fancies somebody else, is not a matter for the police,” she said.
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