Northern Ireland news

PSNI sexual misconduct complaints ‘deeply disturbing'

Gerry Carroll asked justice minister Naomi Long for her reaction
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

An MLA has said it is “deeply disturbing” that 39 PSNI officers have been subject to internal investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct in the last five years.

Gerry Carroll asked justice minister Naomi Long for her reaction to the information during ministerial question time at Stormont. Mrs Long said it was important that serious offenders were removed from their post.

A Freedom of Information request, first reported by the Belfast Telegraph, revealed that five of the complaints were upheld, with three officers dismissed and two jailed.

At Stormont, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll asked the minister: “I would like to ask for your assessment on the deeply disturbing news that at least 39 police officers have been subject to internal investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct in the last five years?”

Mrs Long referred to heightened public concern following the conviction of Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard.

She said: “I think like everyone in the chamber, we have all been touched by what happened in the case of Sarah Everard.

“It has brought home a reality for many women in our society that even those who appear to be figures of trust are often predators, and that fear that lies with every woman who is alone, who is trying to go about their daily business, that they may be preyed upon by someone. I think it is all the more acute at this time.

“Having listened to the evidence, having listened to the witnesses, it is a very chilling thing to think that someone in such a position of authority, someone to whom we would turn for help, would abuse that position in such an egregious way.”

The minster added: “I think it is hugely important that the PSNI continue to do the work that they do in terms of challenging culture and within the organisation to ensure that misogyny and sexism are tackled in the same way they would any other form of prejudice.

“I also believe that it is important that we have confidence as a community in being able to go to the PSNI if we are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

“I am aware that disciplinary matters are often spread across a number of different departments. Some will have been dealt with within the PSNI, some will be dealt with by the ombudsman’s office and I’m aware that not all the cases to which the member has referred, in terms of numbers, may have reached the end of that process.

“However, in terms of those that have, we are aware that there are a number of people who have been dismissed from their post and I believe that in cases of serious offending, that is important, because we need to know that when we turn to a police officer in a moment of distress that we are safe and that we are confident we will remain safe in doing so.”

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