More than a dozen victims of rape and sexual assault received justice as a former Kingston detective was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Ryan Coleman Farrow deliberately de-railed 13 rape and sexual assault cases between 2007-2010. His case was heard on October 29 at Southwark Crown Court and is the latest controversy to hit sex crime unit Sapphire, which critics blame for a public loss of faith in rape reporting.
Heather Harvey, Research and Development Manager at women’s campaign group Eaves said today: “In our society we do have a wider problem whereby women are not automatically guaranteed credibility and this clearly feeds into the police as well such that women seeking justice for rape are disbelieved and not taken seriously.”
But Deborah Glass, from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, hit back against allegations of systematic police failings in Sapphire. She said: “Our investigation did not reveal systemic or serious supervisory failings. While we may never fully understand the motivation for his actions, Mr Coleman-Farrow appears to have been a rogue officer who set out to deceive.”
Mr Coleman-Farrow may not be the only rogue officer. Another Sapphire detective is also currently under investigation. The cases are the latest in a series of high profile investigations into the unit in the last five years.
Referring to these, Ms Harvey said it was: “Surprising that IPCC seem to be suggesting there were no supervisory or systemic failings… After all, Sapphire was also severely criticised for failings in their handlings of the Reid and Worboys rape cases.”
Southwark Court heard that Mr Coleman-Farrow succeeded in manipulating evidence and lying to rape victims in 13 different cases before pleading guilty in September 2012.
Ms Glass said that Mr Coleman-Farrow “actively lied and misled his supervisors to cover up his shortcomings”. Between 2007 and 2010 the former Sapphire officer repeatedly falsified case records, lied about taking victim statements and failed to submit evidence for thirteen rape cases.
His case comes at a particularly uncomfortable time for the police, coinciding with a September report revealing a 15 per cent drop in Greater London rape reporting for the period from April to September 2011.
Ms Harvey said: “It is no great leap to suggest this may be due to women’s lack of confidence that their cases will be properly handled.”
But Sarah Green at Violence Against Women Coalition has argued that rape reporting is a wider issue than police confidence. She said: “There’s no question the police need to do more to increase confidence but there are other issues to be tackled here like broader questions around widely held attitudes about rape and whose fault it is…we need work in schools and publicity campaigns.”
In recent months Sapphire have tried to shift attention towards rape prevention and away from high profile police failures like Mr Coleman-Farrow’s. On 11th October, new head Mick Duthie announced an overhaul of licencing laws focused on closing down pubs where rape was more likely to occur. The new initiative places potential suspects and locations in the spotlight, leading critics to claim responsibility for rape reporting and prosecution is being shifted from the police to the public.
But the measures have been welcomed by many groups like Eaves. Ms Harvey said: “We understand that the new head of Sapphire is determined to bring in a raft of new measures which may hopefully help prevent these sorts of incidents in the future, and of course we welcome that.”