In July this year, one of my daughters was sexually assaulted in a Brighton retail outlet. It was a very unwelcome groping and touching, and she is underage, while the alleged perpetrator was about 35, and was the supposed Manager. She was deeply upset – as she has every right to be.
We are swamped with daily reports in the media of the lack of police on the beat. Of the less than 1% chance of getting caught when shoplifting, the chance of getting a stolen car back is next to zero, and then there’s the horrendous cases of sexual assault and rape by serving police officers.
Regardless, l have always taught my girls that these cases are one-in-a- million and if in trouble, always seek out a policeman or run to the nearest police station.
So imagine her shock and feelings of being totally let down when we walked to Brighton Police Station to report the incident. A note was taken and we were told that an officer would be in touch. Two months later and, with the exception of a few emails explaining that officers were not available, ‘l don’t know if the CCTV has been secured as that team work remotely and l have no control over them’ etc etc, absolutely nothing had happened. She had not been interviewed, no statement taken, no CCTV sought, her sister not interviewed as the witness, no arrest. Nothing.
As if she was not upset enough by the event, the lack of care and attention from the Police has shaken her to her core and left her feeling that there is no point in reporting crime as they don’t care.
She told the story her school, and her boyfriend told the story to all at his school, and she is now reciting the event at her University. This leads to hundreds of kids who believe there is no point making any Police report, and God only knows how many thousands of young girls have been through the same nightmare across the UK.
I had zero intention of letting this lie so l contacted Jo Shiner, the Chief Constable of Sussex Police, along with the Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. Bourne didn’t bother to reply but Jo Shiner came back within the day with profuse apologises, and appointed her Deputy Chief Constable to investigate. A Detective Inspector was tasked to take on the case, the alleged perpetrator was arrested and bailed, with strict licence terms that he could not be alone with any underage girl. The case now proceeds with speed.
That is great, and my daughter will get justice. The alleged offender will not do this to any other girls, underage or not. He will hopefully be on the receiving end of the full weight of appropriate justice. The problem with all of this is that if l had not lost my rag and contacted everyone l could find, and if l had not been the Publisher of the largest circulation business magazine in the UK, l really worry over what would have happened. My gut tells me… ‘nothing’!
In the mid-1990s, just 12p in every pound of your Council Tax bill went to the Police; today it is 32p in the pound. Recently it rose by a further 10% but budgets are still tight. Forces such as West Midlands Police say they will simply use the extra cash to plug a funding gap and maintain their current level of policing.
In Lincolnshire, the Chief Constable has said there will be cuts, including the loss of 40 officers and 30 support staff, despite the rise in tax. And the settlement is not enough to reverse the 30% real-terms cut in central government funding since 2010. By last December, there were 44,000 fewer officers, staff and community support officers than in 2010. On top of this, the government passed a £330m annual cost for police pensions on to local forces, so many will have to use the extra money to cover this new cost - meaning taxpayers will not see much difference in policing levels.
This massive increase in Police funding should lead to a better service but the reverse is true. Dame Vera Baird, the former Victims Commissioner said, “You would hope that the ‘#MeToo’ movement would have made women more confident in reporting sexual crime, but that has just faded away in light of the lack of Police response.”
The Crime Survey published by the Office for National Statistics found that only 16% of alleged victims report the assault to the Police. Why? Lack of Police response, of course. Even more shocking is that at the time this statement was made, the head of the Met Police was female, Cressida Dick and the head of Sussex police is female, Jo Shiner. If we cannot rely on senior female officers to take these matters seriously, who on earth can we trust?
Now we hear that high street retailers, so desperate to stop shoplifting, have started offering free coffee to Police in the hope they will come by occasionally. Larger retailers are having to put funds together to pay the Police to pay more attention - this is on top of the enormous amount they, and we, pay through taxes.
A recent public survey asked whether they trust Police in the UK - 49% said they did and 47% said they didn’t. Just 51% said that if they had been a victim of crime, they would trust the police to take their case seriously.
Chief Constables are being urged to concentrate on crimes that matter most to people, get the basics right in investigations, and restore the abandoned policy of neighbourhood policing. His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke is demanding new legal powers to make chiefs follow these rules to ‘get back to basics’. He also wants a role in their appointment.
I read all these sorry tales along with you every day in the media but, until now, l have not been personally involved, just shocked by the state of policing in this country. But this first hand experience has left me slightly speechless.
I received exceptional service once the complaint had been made but l naively thought that l would get this level of service upon the first report of an assault on an underage girl. The DCC that contacted me was angry at this level of service and his anger was certainly real, but how many such cases do not reach his desk and therefore are ignored?
We are breeding an entire generation of children who do not trust the Police, and that is a very slippery and dangerous slope as without them, there is nothing keeping the hordes from our doors, private security will run rampant and vigilantes are not far behind.