Watchdog receives scores of reports of police officers abusing position for sex

The IPCC subsequently issued new guidance earlier this year
The IPCC subsequently issued new guidance earlier this year
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Scores of allegations that police officers and staff abused their position for sex have been reported to a watchdog in the last six months, it has emerged.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had received 66 referrals about potential cases since April, when the organisation issued updated guidance.

It came as a new report concluded that more than half of police forces in England and Wales failed to make enough progress in addressing concerns over such accusations.

Inspectors delivered the warning in a follow-up assessment after laying bare the scale of the issue last year.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) was called in by then-home secretary Theresa May to investigate the extent of the problem.

The watchdog's findings, published in December, revealed hundreds of officers and other police personnel had been accused of abusing their power to sexually exploit people, including vulnerable victims of crime.

The IPCC subsequently issued new guidance earlier this year, specifically placing abuse of position for sexual purpose among cases which should be automatically referred for review.

It instructed every police force in England and Wales to retrospectively pass on any cases which met the criteria, to which all 43 responded within deadline.

Publishing updated referral figures, the IPCC said that since April 2014, it had received 320 referrals relating to the abuse of police powers for sexual gains.

These can contain more than one allegation against an officer or member of staff, not all of which require formal investigation.

Of the total handed over in the last three-and-a-half years, 57 required investigation, of which 33 remain ongoing. There were 103 referrals in 2016/17.

As a result of December's HMICFRS report, forces were tasked with developing and beginning to implement plans to achieve the capability and capacity required to seek intelligence on potential cases of abuse of authority for sexual gain.

A review of their progress based on information provided to the inspectorate as of the end of May found that 11 force plans contained insufficient information, while another 15 forces had drawn up plans but had not yet started implementing them.

Fifteen forces had started putting their plans into action, while just two, Derbyshire Constabulary and Merseyside Police, already had all of the required elements in place.

HM Inspector Mike Cunningham, who led the review, said: "When police officers and police staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose it has a devastating effect on the lives of victims, and corrodes trust and confidence in the police."