(POP0016)

 

Written evidence submitted by F Millikin Walker (POP0016)

 

 

1.I am a citizen who has experience of working within the legal system.

 

WHAT A MODERN POLICE SERVICE, FIT FOR THE 2020S AND BEYOND, LOOKS LIKE

 

2. A modern police service polices by the consent of the entire country.  It is forward thinking and protects all of us and our human rights.  The police are us and we are the police, so it is diverse, inclusive.  Women, who are the majority of this country, are also properly represented in it and by it.  It is transparent and completely accountable.    It does not seek to protect itself at our expense.  This is the police service we need.

 

3. Many organisations would rather deny their past and silence victims than face the disturbing truth of their failure to protect those they are supposed to serve.  It is important the Police do not do this.  Particularly in relation to systemic racism and misogyny.  

 

WHAT BALANCE POLICE FORCES IN ENGLAND AND WALES SHOULD STRIKE BETWEEN A FOCUS ON PREVENTING AND SOLVING CRIME AND CARRYING OUT THEIR OTHER FUNCTIONS

 

4. In relation to crime we need to stop just pulling victims out of the river - we need to go upstream and find why they are falling in, and who is pushing them.  This means we need to start looking at perpetrators and holding them accountable for the epidemic of almost exclusively male violence and criminality we are all experiencing.  

 

5. As a country we need to begin to have frank gendered conversations about crime and its roots and we need to start consistently gathering the data that supports informed discussion.  

 

6. 96% of the prison population is male.  The reality is that most crime is committed by men and almost all violence is committed by men. Male violence in the UK goes across all socio-economic and demographic groups.  It appears in every walk of life and appears in every institution.  From charities like Oxfam, to Parliament, to schools and universities, the Church, the Police.

 

7. Male violence also underpins, enables and perpetuates major crime e.g. terrorism, the drug trade, human trafficking, knife crime, offences against the person, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse.  Huge amounts of male violence goes unreported and unpunished.  

 

8. It is of course not all men who are involved in violence.  The difficulty is that we do not know how prevalent it is, and who is involved, because we do not yet collect data nationally on perpetrator prevalence (though the European Institute for Gender Equality recommended some time ago this is something the UK, including the police, should do).  According to an FOI response I have seen, we apparently do not know how many men are on the Sex Offenders Register.  We do not even centrally record the women and children routinely murdered by men on a weekly basis. Even so, we can see from the high numbers of victims that many men within the population have to be involved in perpetration of offences.    

 

9. However, male violence is not inevitable.  By addressing the social, cultural, political and economic factors that drive male violence, it could be reduced and eradicated.  Australia has committed to do just that within a decade.  If Australia can do it, why can’t we?

 

10. In my view the UK, whose statistics on male violence are just as bad/worse than Australia’s, should follow suit and produce a national plan taking action in the following areas:

 

  1.                                                                                                                Prevention – working to change the underlying social drivers of violence by addressing the attitudes and systems that drive male violence to stop it before it starts.
  2.                                                                                                                Early intervention – identifying and supporting individuals who are at high risk of experiencing or perpetrating violence and prevent it from reoccurring.
  3.                                                                                                                Response – providing services and supports to address existing violence and support victim-survivors experiencing violence, such as crisis support and police intervention, and a trauma-informed justice system that will hold people who use violence to account.
  4.                                                                                                                Recovery and healing – helping to reduce the risk of re-traumatisation, and supporting victim-survivors to be safe and healthy to be able to recover from trauma and the physical, mental, emotional, and economic impacts of violence.

 

11. The economic, social and health costs of male violence affect all of us in the UK; for this reason, we all have a responsibility to play our part in addressing this national crisis.  A modern police service obviously has a crucial role to play in this.

 

12. At a time of economic crisis and austerity, it will always be argued that there is no money to fund such an ambitious plan.  However it should be remembered that it is estimated that crime costs this country around £100 billion p.a.  The costs of terrorism have been estimated at £38.3 billion.  The costs of domestic violence are estimated to be around £66 billion, with the NHS bearing over £2 billion of the burden of that. 

 

13.To set these figures in context the combined revenue of the fashion,

fishing, music, film and automotive industries in this country produce a combine revenue of £66.3 billion.  As one can see, the cost of domestic violence alone effectively cancels out all of the economic benefits of those industries.  

 

14. Given the huge sums involved, and the human cost of male violence and criminality, it is in our interests as a society to address this, even in times of austerity.  We cannot afford not to.  Particularly when it is estimated that every pound spent addressing male violence yields £14 social capital. 

 

WHAT ROLES POLICE FORCES SHOULD PRIORITISE

 

15. For the reasons discussed above and below, I think the Police need to prioritise playing their part in systematically addressing male violence nationally.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE COMMUNITY POLICING AND INCREASE TRUST IN POLICE OFFICERS AND FORCES, INCLUDING ON FUNDING AND ON DISCIPLINARY POWERS WHEN POLICE OFFICER BEHAVIOUR FALLS BELOW REQUIRED STANDARDS

 

16. The Police, like any group of citizens, will reflect the society in which it sits.  This means it will also, inevitably, reflect the injustices which exist there unless something significant is done to counter that.

 

17. Racial injustice is a useful indicator of the truth of this.  The recent report by the Home Affairs Committee found systemic failings leading to “unjustified inequalities” in the police.  It was heavily critical of the progress being made to tackle the institutional racism identified in the Macpherson report following the death of Stephen Lawrence and the police’s failure to reform itself.  It found guidelines and recommendations had been ignored over the past two decades, or not followed through.

 

18. By the same token, like any other group of men in our current climate, the police will also reflect the sexism and misogyny prevalent in society, and abuses will follow if not challenged and managed.  It is no accident that two thousand police have been accused of sexual misconduct, including rape, over the past four years.  Nor that at least 15 women have been murdered by officers or former officers since 2009.  Nor that there are 600 active cases against the police requiring investigation. 

 

19. As discussed above, male violence is a systemic problem, which is part of the current fabric of society.  Abusive men exist in all walks of life. The Police cannot credibly expect or pretend to be immune.  There will be officers within the Police who think as many other men do, and some will act on that in ways which are violent and abusive.

 

20. The way to increase trust is by behaving in a trustworthy way and being seen to do so.  The best form of apology for what has gone on in the past is a change in behaviour.  So the Police now needs to manage its criminal elements, and their criminal behaviour, differently. 

 

21. There can be no place for those who abuse, and abuse their power, in the Police – bad cops undermine all the good cops there are.  Their behaviour, and its toleration, makes the Police unsafe for citizens.  It also makes the Police an unsafe place to be for other officers, including whistleblowers.  None of this is acceptable.  None of it can be allowed to continue. 

 

22. Officers who breach the law in this way need to be dismissed, without their pensions.  In my view they should also be put on a register in the same way that sex offenders are.  They need to be held accountable and there need to be serious consequences for them.  Their crimes should follow them.  Radical action is needed to address the institutional problems there are and to signal where the line on violence and abuse properly lies within society.  We need to stop tolerating the intolerable.  Institutional courage is the antidote to institutional betrayal. 

 

SPECIFICALLY, WHAT THE METROPOLITAN POLICE MUST DO TO INCREASE TRUST UNDER ITS NEW COMMISSIONER

 

23. The new Commissioner needs to both talk the talk, and walk the walk.  Advocate for a national framework to tackle these issues.  Follow recommendations already made which flow into that.  Be part of the change required.  Look at what Australia is doing and how it is achieving it.  Change the story.   

 

24. Talk to people like Doreen Lawrence, Mina Smallman.  Talk to Police officers who have suffered violence and racial abuse and been pushed out when they have reported it.  Listen to their testimony about the ways justice/injustice is being administered in the UK.  Be led by victims and trauma-informed organisations every step of the way.  Ask them all what they want and need to change. 

 

25. There are some specific steps that could be swiftly taken.  For example, abandoning the use of stop and search for drugs, which is ineffective, damaging to communities and trust, and often involves abuses of human rights, would be a step in the right direction.  Tagging, tracking and registering domestically violent men, in the way we do sex offenders, as they have successfully done in France, would be another positive.  Talking frankly about the gendered nature of criminal activity.  Requiring all police forces to collate data in a harmonised way, particularly on perpetrator prevalence, in the ways suggested by The European Institute of Gender Equality, to support national examination of these issues, would be a good start.

 

26. In fact there are many positive changes that could be made, using infrastructure already in place, that would make a difference whilst a detailed national framework was being put in place.  

 

WHAT STEPS CAN BE TAKEN TO IMPROVE NATIONAL CONVICTION RATES, INCLUDING VIA RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER BODIES SUCH AS THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE

 

27. The national and organisational changes to ethos and approaches to male violence and criminality discussed above would hopefully change reporting rates.  It begins with believing victims and honestly discussing and addressing the realities we are living with. The focus on stranger-danger narratives, discussions of rogue perpetrators and a few rotten apples, the routine blaming of victims does not do that. It does not truthfully reflect the widespread nature of male violence amongst the general population.    

 

28. Peddling comfortable lies in order to avoid uncomfortable truths nationally means that the truth is not fully attended to and addressed.  That needs to stop and the Police can be part of shifting our collective perspective. 

 

29. If that were done on a national level, those involved in the legal system, including juries would come to the process better informed and that would have a beneficial impact on conviction rates and treatment of victims.  

 

30. One specific area of concern which could be immediately addressed is the abandoning and screening out of cases for prosecution that currently goes on, firstly by the Police and thereafter by the CPS.  This needs to be independently scrutinised. 

 

31. For example, the discounting of reported rapes on the basis of the existence of credible contrary evidence varies regionally between police forces from 0.5% to over 50%.  This suggests there is a post code lottery operating, and that decisions not to proceed are not always being made on objective grounds.  It suggests rapists are being allowed to walk free to repeat their crimes.  

 

32.At one point in my legal career I defended sex offenders and was deeply disturbed at how easy it was for them to escape justice because of the evident bias operating against their female victims.  It is the reason I stopped practicing criminal law: it was clear the system was failing and re-traumatising the vulnerable.  A judge recently told me there has been little progress – he witnessed the same thing on a daily basis throughout his career.  We need to do better and this is a good time to reform. 

 

GOING FORWARD

 

33. Men are very obviously granted and trusted with the greatest levels of power socially.  Frank discussions about their notable propensity to violence as a group cut across and potentially disrupt received narratives and assumptions about the legitimacy of that conferred status.  Narratives which men have an on-going investment in.    

 

34. At a fundamental level the reality of male violence challenges what we all want to believe of men as natural protectors, rather than predators.  It must also potentially challenge the existential need men have, like all other human beings, to see themselves as good, worthy, loveable and competent.  It is a difficult reality to face. 

 

35. However, this is the same difficulty that the beneficiaries of any privilege and unfair entitlement face when recognising the injustices of a system of which they are part, as for racism, or homophobia etc.  The stark choice this poses is the same for every individual:

 

 

36. This is the choice that the Police now face, along with the rest of us in this country.  Are we going to become a beacon of excellence and justice, or simply expect the victims of crime, violence and prejudice to continue to endure what is meted out to them, including their deaths?

 

37. All of us, including those in power, will need to look at themselves, their thinking and behaviour on this, and question whether they are on the right side of justice.  Without being willing to do that we cannot change the epidemic of male violence and abuse swamping society in which so many of us actively and passively collude, and so perpetuate. 

 

38. My feeling is that confronting and committing to challenging injustice, however difficult, is always the right way forward.  If not now, when?

 

39. In a sense, with our national reputation and standing so severely tarnished, perhaps this is the perfect time to take the opportunity to rebuild trust and set our foundations of justice far more firmly on the true principles of fairness we believe we stand by and for. If we choose to do that perhaps something truly good and uniting, that will benefit us all, might come out of this dark and difficult time.

 

October 2022