I can’t sleep…
I should be able to as I have just finished a 14 hour night shift and spent the last three hours of it fighting to keep my eyes open. That was my own fault to some extent as I chose not to give up some quality time with the kids over getting that couple of hours of preparatory snooze time that has become more and more essential over the last few years. To be honest, I would probably have still been hanging by half past eight regardless of whether I had slept or not. It was one of those nights…
All started much as was expected. The briefing was pretty mundane and cut short as usual by some over-dramatised call about a noisy party spilling out into the street.
‘Anonymous caller reporting 20-30 fighting in the alleyway and car park behind their address….no descriptions…any Team 3 call sign available to attend’
Three double-crewed cars were dispatched, leaving their virtually untouched builders tea on the table to go cold (again) and that was half the team on their way to the other side of the district. The briefing was abandoned as it was mostly old information anyway and those of us who remained were given ten minutes to finish our drinks and check emails before getting kicked out into the night with the usual instruction not to return until that illusive entity known as our ‘provisional meal time’.
My crew-mate and I spent the next few hours trying to resolve a few outstanding enquiries from our crime accounts and hunting for local ‘do-no-gooders’ or drink-drivers. We got dispatched to a few routine jobs along the way, but nothing too taxing or remotely prisoner-worthy. Soon enough it was 02:15 and time to start meandering our way back toward the station to get something to eat…a bag of Haribo had filled a hole, but we were in need of something a little more substantial.
Those of you with any experience of Policing knows what was about to happen…
‘Mike Oscar Four Four…Immediate call to College Green…female reporting sexual assault by a named offender…believed to be her ex-partner…please respond’
We looked at each-other as the details of the incident came in. We shouldn’t be immediately cynical, but we were. That cynicism didn’t change the way we responded to the call or the victim or dealt with the situation in any way, it’s just an unfortunate side effect of being used as a weapon by one person against another on many, many occasions.
In a matter of minutes we were there and soon found a mildly intoxicated girl in her early 20’s with make-up all over her face from crying. She told us about what had happened and disclosed enough information for us to realise we needed to start putting lots of things in place. My crew-mate turned to me as we got the tape from the boot of the car…
‘I think this is a real one’
she said….and I agreed. We identified a scene and confirmed the details of the suspect (an ex-partner from a few months ago). Due to the nature of the offence and the fact that it had been committed in a public place we were going to need at least two officers to remain there…two of us with the victim…four officers to go and arrest the suspect and search his address for clothing and a couple of items belonging to the victim that he still had…on-call CID…separate on-call scenes of crime officers for the victim and the scene and the offender…and that was just the basics!
Our team’s numbers and chances of eating anything for the foreseeable future were immediately decimated.
We went back to the station where we waited for and then briefed the DC that would be looking after the victim as well as arranging for replacement clothing to be provided by a family member before starting the long process of documenting everything that had been said and done and preparing the evidence for the forthcoming investigation. Much as we wanted to get back out there it just wasn’t possible…
While we wrote, photographed, typed and taped up evidence bags we could hear the remaining two Team 3 officers getting dragged from pillar to post, all over the city trying to do the work of ten whilst trying to prevent the wheel coming off. It was a losing battle and the call to dispatch times got longer and longer…there were people waiting over an hour for Police to arrive at an intruder alarm or a fight and victims of burglaries being told that there was simply no one available to attend until the morning.
Two stolen cars were picked up going through the ANPR cameras within five miles of the nick but there was no one to stop them driving off into the night as traffic were all up on the motorway dealing with a life-threatening crash and our car was out in one of the villages trying to find a suspicious van linked to cable thefts.
Before we knew it the time was half past five and each job was taking longer and longer to achieve…still, we believed had done something worthwhile and that made it worth it. A victim had been helped and the offender for a particularly vile offence was now in custody being examined.
Quarter past six arrived and the scribbling was done so on went the kettle and I reluctantly put my last 60p in the vending machine in the canteen for a packet of crisps to try to stop my stomach growling. I returned to the office to find my crew-mate on the phone…a look of disbelief on her face. She hung up the phone and gave me the update.
We had, with 45 minutes to go, been tasked to go and get a statement from the victim’s boyfriend who had witnessed the assault we were dealing with. My immediate reaction was that this was completely unnecessary and something that could be left until the day shift came in, but then I got the full story.
Our so-called ‘victim’ had just broken down during her video interview and told the DC that she had gone willingly into the park where the offence occurred with her ex-boyfriend after a row in a club between the ex and her current man over an alleged affair she had been having with the ex for the last month.
Once in the park, one thing had led to another and they had started ‘doing the business’ (as she had put it) behind the monument not far from the road. A short time later her boyfriend had found them in this compromising position and in a moment of regret and drunken stupidity she had pushed the ex away and started screaming at him in an attempt to convince her boyfriend that the ex had forced her into it and that she actually still loved him.
Understandably the ex had decided that this wasn’t worth the hassle and walked away. This was, understandably, an opinion shared by the current boyfriend who also walked off, leaving the ‘victim’ alone in the park. Such was her desire to prove herself to her current boyfriend, and presumably to ease her guilt at being a little to keen to drop her knickers with the ex, she decided to call the Police and report the assault as this would obviously get him into coming back to her.
The initial reaction of the suspect on being arrested was to insist that this exact scenario was the case and to relentlessly protest his innocence through a mixture of anger and tears of desperation. It appeared that his protests were completely vindicated!
Two and a half hours later the statement was complete and completely exonerated the suspect. No mention of the boyfriend had been made by anyone prior to the confession of the ‘victim’. This made it all the more frustrating…
The poor guy in custody had been woken by Police, nicked for rape in front of his parents and his sister, been taken to a Police station, stripped, searched, swabbed and stuck in a cell for seven hours. He must have been completely destroyed by the implications of what was happening to him. I have to say that I would happily have stayed longer to deal with the female when she got back to the Police station just to see her get what she deserves and to look her in the face as the charges, that I hope will follow, are read out to her.
Sexual assaults are some of the most debilitating offences for the victims. The effects can be life-changing and long-lasting. Unfortunately these offences are also some of the most commonly mis-reported as well as being massively under-reported.
I hope that no one will read this and form the opinion that allegations of rape are not taken seriously by me or others who do this job, or that victims of genuine assaults will not be believed.
This is simply not the case.
We, as Police, will always deal with an allegation of rape or sexual assault as genuine until it can be proved genuine or not. The comprehensive investigation detailed above demonstrates that. However false allegations such as this can easily result in innocent parties being charged with offences they haven’t committed as there is an inherent difficulty in proving that, as would have been the case in this incident, consent was given when the victim says otherwise.
Forensics can easily prove that sex happened which is great if the suspect denies it, but in cases like this where it is only consent that is the issue, things can so easily go wrong.
Unfortunately cases like this are part of the reason that many officers, including myself, inevitably develop a slightly dubious initial attitude to these types of incident. It doesn’t affect the way we do our job, that would be catastrophic for the victims of genuine assaults, but it’s always there at the back of our minds – that’s human nature. I look forward to seeing what happened when I get back on duty tonight…
Hopefully getting this down on [electronic] paper will remove the anger and frustration from my mind allow me to calm down and sleep for a while now. It would be nice to be all fresh-faced and awake for the excitement of the night ahead!