National police anti-corruption hotline expected to get ‘thousands of referrals’

By Staff

A national hotline for reporting police corruption and abuse is expected to receive “thousands of referrals”, police chiefs have said. The service, run by the independent charity Crimestoppers, was rolled out nationally on Thursday and has been used by the Metropolitan Police since November 2022.

More than 700 investigations have been launched after nearly 3,000 contacts to the service in its first 18 months of operation in London.

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Donna Jones, chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, told the PA news agency she now expected to see “thousands of referrals” made to the hotline following its national launch.

“We’re certainly going to have a surge, because this line has now gone national so of course that will mean that many more people will now be referring in. So, yes I do expect a volume, thousands of referrals to be made to the hotline.”

However, Ms Jones said she did not think the number of cases across the country would match the levels seen in the capital, because of the fact the Met is “five times the size of the next largest police force in the country”.

“London has been a huge case in point which has led to this watershed moment in policing. We are not seeing that level of harm and abuse of position at anywhere near that level because other forces are so much smaller,” she said.

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said he hopes the hotline will help reassure communities after a series of harrowing scandals.

“Some of the cases we’ve had recently, in my view, have been some of the worst abuses of power that we’ve seen in 200 years of police history,” Mr Stephens told the PA news agency.

“Recent events, particularly Wayne Couzens’ abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, I cannot think of anything else in 200 years of policing history that is as serious an abuse of power as that. Those types of incidents send a really strong signal.”

“Not just about the depravity of the offender, who was a police officer, but that there’s something wrong in our society, and something wrong in our institutions. So, it’s really important that we respond to those cases.”

The Met started using the hotline in 2022 following a series of incidents including the murder of Ms Everard by serving officer Couzens, and then-Pc David Carrick being unmasked as a serial rapist.

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“This is a massive watershed moment in UK policing, for all UK police forces,” Ms Jones said.

“It is now a national priority for the Home Secretary, for the Prime Minister, for every police and crime commissioner and for every chief constable the public can take it with a cast-iron guarantee, they have our assurance that corruption will be rooted out.”

Details from the national hotline will be passed on to the relevant force for assessment and may lead to an investigation by professional standards and anti-corruption teams.

Mr Stephens said: “To people who might think about using this line, it’s not just a hotline, it’s part of a much broader service that we can offer to make sure that any report is taken absolutely seriously and of course, you might be calling us anonymously with the one missing piece of information that we’ve been looking for in order to progress a case.”

Investigations will be “completely independent” to ensure teams have “no connection at all” to the accused officer or member of staff, he added.

“I think, particularly for women, it might be a report about a partner that’s a police officer or an ex-partner. They will understandably want that reassurance that whoever is going to be picking up this investigation has not got any connection at all to the person that they’re making allegations against.”

Both Mr Stephens and Ms Jones said more needed to be done to ensure that corrupt and abusive people were not able to enter the force in the first place.

Mr Stephens said an integrity screening process was being discussed, in line with recommendations set out in Lady Angiolini’s inquiry following Ms Everard’s murder.

The inquiry found that a series of red flags were missed about Couzens, who was a serial sex offender in spiralling debt.

Ms Jones said ongoing checks needed to be put in place to ensure no one was able to “slip through the net”.

“There are the few people who we know will slip through the net at some point, perhaps because their first offending is when they are in the force, so there is nothing to vet them out of previously,” Ms Jones said.

“When that happens, we have to make sure that we are getting them out and removing them really quickly so that is the key thing now.”

The hotline is available either online or by calling 0800 085 0000.

Information can be passed on about potential crimes including police officers, staff or volunteers who may be accepting bribes, abusing their position, mistreating their partner or expressing racist, homophobic, misogynistic or ableist beliefs.

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