Scrap plans to give cops more power, say women as David Carrick jailed for life. 


By Anita Mureithi for Open Democracy.  7 February 2023.

A Met officer has been locked up for dozens of rapes. Yet Suella Braverman’s priority is clamping down on protesters. Protesters gather outside Southwark Crown Court for the sentencing of serial rapist former police officer David Carrick

“Mark Rowley [the Metropolitan Police commissioner] is saying he wants the police to be publicly accountable, but the government is giving them more powers to be less accountable.

“That’s a direct area of constant conflict and possible confrontation.”

>>> Read more here about our protests and the media coverage around the sentencing of David Carrick.

Those were the words of Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape and Crissie Amiss from Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, speaking to openDemocracy outside Southwark Crown Court where police officer and serial rapist David Carrick was today jailed for life over 85 offences.

Carrick’s conviction less than two years after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer from the same unit, Wayne Couzens, has piled pressure on Britain’s biggest police force, the Met, which is already in special measures following a string of scandals.

But Longstaff and Amiss and their respective groups were at Southwark to draw attention to something else. The Public Order Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, will give police officers like Carrick and Couzens even more power to crack down on protests – including protests against the police themselves.

Images of cops violently detaining women in Clapham Common during a vigil for Everard in 2021 did little to halt the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act through Parliament, though a series of last-minute additions by home secretary Priti Patel were voted down in the Lords.

The Public Order Bill restores the proposals that were stripped from the act, giving police more power to shut down protests, and the courts more power to punish protesters who cause “serious disruption”.

Last week, peers in the House of Lords voted 243 to 221 to raise the threshold for what was defined as “serious disruption”. But strong concerns about the planned new law remain.

Jurors at Southwark have heard harrowing details of how Carrick used his position as a constable at the Metropolitan Police to carry out a series of brutal attacks, and prevent his victims from leaving or reporting him.

Last month the Met announced that 1,633 cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving 1,071 officers and other staff are being assessed. The force has repeatedly refused to give openDemocracy details of abusive messages shared inside WhatsApp groups, and last month would not say how many officers in its own Sexual Offences Unit had been accused of wrongdoing.

For Longstaff and Amiss, new anti-protest laws will make it harder for the public to hold the police to account – which is vital as more victims of police sexual violence continue to come forward.

“The more [people’s] voices are out there, they can't just whitewash it or say it’s not happening,” they said.

“The fact that the conviction rate for rape has gone to below 1% is really an indication of just how all of this collectively builds up to stop any of us getting the justice that we're entitled to. [We can] speak out and… make the case that this is not just the odd bad apple.”


‘Who’s going to believe you? I’m a police officer’

As details continue to come out about Carrick’s campaign of degradation and torture, rights groups, particularly those that work with victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, say there is no one to safely report attacks to when the attackers are police.

For Longstaff and Amiss, “one of the things that’s striking about this case is… he was clearly abusing his uniform, his gun, his powers as an officer, as they do, and… literally during the act of rape, saying things to women like: ‘Who’s going to believe you? I’m a police officer.’ When you’re in that situation it is terrifying because you know it’s true.

“It’s really hard to report rape by a police officer, whether you’re a policewoman or a civilian woman – it’s really stacked against you because, until very recently, nobody would have believed you.

“They’ve been emboldened to have the confidence that they can rape and commit domestic violence with impunity.”

Jurors heard how for more than 17 years Carrick had relied on his “charm” to “beguile and mislead” 12 victims before using his position as a police officer to intimidate and control them.

Prosecutor Tom Little KC reportedly told the court as his sentencing began on Monday that the former officer was “no doubt aware that they would conclude they would be unlikely to be believed if they were to come forward on their own and claim that a Metropolitan Police officer had raped them”.

Despite Carrick being investigated by police in 2000 for allegedly harassing and burgling an ex-partner, no charges were brought against him, and he passed vetting checks when he joined the Met in 2001. Known by colleagues as “Bastard Dave”, he would go on to be on the police radar again in 2002, 2004, 2009, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021, yet he wasn’t prosecuted for any of these incidents.

Last month, Scotland Yard admitted that it failed to spot Carrick’s escalating pattern of abuse, leaving him free to carry out multiple violent sexual offences, including holding a handgun to one victim’s head before raping her, and locking another victim in a cupboard after threatening her with his police baton.

For Amiss, the issue of feeling unsafe while reporting abuse to police is far reaching. “There are whole sectors [of people] who have to weigh whether or not we can go to the police. You know, if we’re women of colour, going to the police might end up with us being criminalised for something [if we are reporting] that violence to an officer who’s a racist. And it’s very clear just how many officers in the force are racist.

“You have to think twice – can I really go and say that? Who will believe me?” she added.

“The ones that we’re supposed to report to are the same ones that are terrorising our communities.”

Yesterday the court heard that one of the victims, who was assaulted by penetration, did not report the attack because she “doubted anyone would do anything if she made a complaint”.

Anne Neale, of Support Not Separation, a campaign group that works to end the separation of children from their mother or primary carer, pointed out that the impact of police impunity is also felt in family courts.

“Because the police don’t take reports of rape and domestic violence seriously,” she told openDemocracy, “when women do report, it means that by the time they get to the family court, the fact that they haven’t got a police report, or that the police haven’t taken it seriously, is used to undermine their case.”

In light of the Public Order Bill, Longstaff and Amiss say that protests allow for “people who are up against the police in so many different ways” to find justice and community.

“For [victims] to actually speak out, that takes a lot of courage,” they said. “And it also gives hope. The fact that there is a movement that is speaking out and ready to protect those of us who, too, are victims, or who are being turned into suspects or criminalised whenever we try and raise what's happening to us – that really gives power to a whole set of other people to say: ‘I've had that experience, too.”

>>> Read more here about our protests and the media coverage around the sentencing of David Carrick.