By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
[email protected] @journoanna_
A woman who says she was repeatedly raped and assaulted by her police officer ex-partner has spoken out to criticise how Notts Police handled the allegations, saying she felt the force “closed ranks” to unfairly protect him.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says the officer raped her up to four times a week, used police restraint techniques on her and locked her in her own home during a period of physical abuse and controlling behaviour which peaked during pandemic lockdown restrictions.
She says he was questioned under caution after she reported him to the force, but he was never arrested or suspended by Nottinghamshire Police during the investigations.
The officer has always denied all the allegations, and an internal misconduct hearing found he had no case to answer.
Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Reynolds, deputy head of Nottinghamshire Police Professional Standards Directorate, said the force takes allegations of rape and sexual assault “extremely seriously”.
He added the report was also subject to a “thorough criminal investigation” but did not meet the evidential threshold for a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service, meaning no charges were brought.
It follows new figures from Nottinghamshire Police showing the number of sexual misconduct allegations against officers had increased significantly.
The force received 63 allegations of sexual misconduct against officers and police staff in 2022 – the highest number in the last six years.
The woman came forward to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after reading comments by Notts Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry, who told a meeting on police performance she had been “assured” that a damning report into standards at the Metropolitan Police was not mirrored locally.
Police conduct nationally remains under public scrutiny in the wake of the high-profile court convictions of numerous serving Metropolitan Police officers.
“I’ve kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to anger my ex-partner, but I want to change the system,” the woman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“I have been the most perfect victim, I have not angered him or retaliated. Yet I feel the police have criminalised me. I’m squeaky clean and they still manage to make me the bad guy. They have closed ranks and protected him.
“I find it offensive and insulting that Caroline Henry made that sweeping statement about the situation at the Met not being reflected locally. It was like salt to the wound.
“I have exhausted every single avenue to report this. I resent the fact that they’ve protected him.
“I feel like I’ve been punished for daring to speak out about him.”
Mrs Henry told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that she was “satisfied that the correct procedures are in place to deal with allegations of misconduct”.
Notts Police’s criminal investigation concluded there was not enough evidence for the case to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether any charges should be brought.
Notts Police also found her ex-partner officer had “no case to answer” for gross misconduct, in an internal professional standards probe separate to the criminal investigation.
But the woman asked for a review by the police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
It has since said the force’s investigation was “not reasonable and proportionate” and has ordered the force to re-investigate parts of the case.
As recently as September 2022, a panel which discusses ongoing domestic abuse cases, the North Nottinghamshire MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference), deemed the woman as the “highest risk of further abuse”.
The woman says when she first decided to tell Nottinghamshire Police about the alleged rape and controlling behaviour two officers came to speak to her, who she feels discouraged her from pursuing the claims.
“The officers said reporting the rape would be humiliating for me, the court case could last three years, and I wouldn’t be able to back out once I’d made the decision. They said my family would hear intimate details about my sex life,” she said.
“The officers said it would be mortifying and it didn’t take much for me to think it wasn’t worth bothering.
“At no point did they say they would support me. At that point, I realised it was all about putting me off.”
She says a subsequent formal interview to record the rape allegations was conducted by two officers – but she was left shocked when one identified themselves as an acquaintance of the alleged perpetrator on the day of the interview.
She said this marked the moment she realised “the police aren’t on my side”.
The woman says the interview went ahead despite the officer’s disclosure, and she told them her partner had regularly woken her in the night and raped and assaulted her.
She said she made plans to leave the relationship, but these fell apart when the Covid-19 pandemic began, leaving her stuck in the house for “a year of hell”.
The woman also says the officer sometimes locked her in the house, at times forcing her to use a window to go outside, banned her from using the car and made her follow “every rule of the pandemic” by “threatening” her and her family with the police if they broke rules.
The woman said there were “no red flags” when she first met the man who became her partner. But she said she noticed a “decline in his attitudes” after he joined the police.
The woman claims her ex-partner “built a story of me being crazy and mental” and says she was left “frightened” and “walking on eggshells” during their time at home.
Describing how the abuse began, she said: “He was sexually assaulting me during the night but he told me he had no recollection of it.
She added: “He made me question reality, which I now know is gaslighting.
“He used police restraint techniques on me. When I told him to leave me alone, he would get my hands behind my back and use pressure points to control me.
“I didn’t want my family to know so I was covering up bruising with make-up.”
The woman later left the home they shared but says it was “only the beginning of the abuse”.
She claims incidents which followed included the man following her home from work, items being left on her car, following her in marked police cars and turning up at her home on Christmas Day unannounced.
She said after reporting the rape to the police, she felt “passed pillar to post”, and had to speak to multiple officers about the allegations.
The woman said she has felt “criminalised and re-traumatised” by reporting the alleged rape to the police.
She said: “I know there will be others like me, but I understand why somebody would not come forward because if I could go again, I would not report it to the police.
“I feel more traumatised by everything that’s happened since I escaped my abuser.
“I am a completely different person now. I have been absolutely ruined by the whole experience.
“I feel I’ve had to face a bully and I am starting to feel angry about how I was treated.
“They have taken away my quality of life over the last couple of years and I am resentful that I have never been treated as a victim of crime.
“The doctors think I have PTSD because of panic attacks, I am having to access counselling and beta blockers and anti-anxiety medication.”
She said she feels like police forces admitting there is a problem is “the most important part” of change.
She added: “Not making police officers accountable for their actions is a recipe for disaster.”
Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Reynolds, deputy head of Nottinghamshire Police Professional Standards Directorate, said: “Nottinghamshire Police takes all reports of rape and sexual assault extremely seriously and this report was subject to a thorough criminal investigation by specialist police officers.
“After a thorough review of the evidence it did not meet the evidential threshold for referral to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether to charge.
“There was also a separate investigation into whether the police officer’s behaviour breached the standards of professional behaviour. This investigation was referred to the IOPC, who referred it back to Nottinghamshire Police Professional Standards Directorate for local investigation. The investigation found that the allegations could not be substantiated.
“We have met with the complainant on several occasions and been open and transparent through the whole procedure. This case was investigated thoroughly and professionally, with oversight from the IOPC.
“The complainant has asked for a review, which has been conducted by the IOPC. The IOPC have directed that aspects of the case are reinvestigated, and this is currently ongoing.
“The Force has invested heavily in ensuring victims of sexual assault are fully supported and this includes our purpose-built Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Nottingham.
“Nottinghamshire Police work hard to ensure public can have trust and confidence in the processes and procedures we have in force, to ensure that our officers and staff meet the high standards expected of them.
“If any officer is found to fall below the high standards we expect then they may face formal disciplinary proceedings, which can lead to serious penalties including dismissal and being placed on the College of Policing barred list.”
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry added she is “incredibly passionate” about preventing incidents and ensuring the force supports survivors.
She said: “While my role does not include any powers involving misconduct hearings, I am responsible for holding the Chief Constable to account on behalf of the public and ensuring the force is being effectively run, with the highest possible standards. This is vital to ensure the force retains and increases public trust and confidence.
“In my regular accountability board meetings with the Chief Constable I scrutinise force performance in a number of areas – and misconduct one of the regular topics of discussion. I am satisfied that the correct procedures are in place to deal with allegations of misconduct and that the force’s Professional Standards Department is extremely swift and thorough and has a strong response to misconduct allegations.
“My office will be continuing to use the full extent of our powers to scrutinise the force on how robustly it is tackling discriminatory, inappropriate, unprofessional and/ or criminal behaviour among its officers and staff.”