Ex-police chief says she would not report crime as victim is 'judged'

Ex-police chief says she would ‘struggle’ to report a crime because female victims are ‘judged and humiliated’ when they do – as she slams ‘toxic culture of sexism and misogyny’ in many forces

  • Former police chief Sue Fish claimed forces have ‘a toxic culture of sexism’
  • Ms Fish spent more than 30 years with the police before retiring in 2017
  • Said she would ‘think very carefully’ about reporting a crime against herself
  • Comes after police officer guarding Sarah Everard’s murder scene reported 

A former police chief today revealed part of policing remains ‘a very toxic culture of sexism and misogyny’ as she claimed women were regularly ‘objectified’.

Sue Fish said she would ‘struggle’ to report a crime against herself because she could be judged and ‘humiliated’ by insensitive officers. 

It comes after a police officer guarding the Sarah Everard murder scene allegedly sent colleagues inappropriate WhatsApp messages about her killing.

Ms Fish spent more than 30 years with the police before her retirement as Chief Constable of the Nottinghamshire Force in 2017.

Speaking to Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, she revealed she ‘would think very carefully’ about reporting a crime against herself to police. 

‘Crime against property not an issue, crime against myself I would probably struggle for how I would be judged,’ she said.

‘There’s two issues. One, for me, it’s not that I think some officers wouldn’t be sensitive, some would be. 

Former police chief Sue Fish (pictured)  said she would ‘struggle’ to report a crime against herself because she could be judged and ‘humiliated’ by insensitive officers

‘Some would be less so and it’s that feeling of being judged. I know in terms of conviction rates and the challenges of going through the criminal justice system as a woman it is thankless. 

‘Endless, repeated humiliation. Telling your story over and over again. Worrying whether you’re ever going to be believed. Putting yourself through that repeatedly as well as the shame of what’s happened to you. 

‘Victim blaming has become so endemic. It’s all that “it shouldn’t really have happened. What did I do” and all that questioning. And then trying to explain yourself and justify yourself just feels to me to be incredibly difficult.’   

A police officer at Sarah Everard’s (pictured) murder scene allegedly sent inappropriate WhatsApp messages about her killing

Ms Fish said there was institutional misogyny in the way the police handled a vigil in Clapham Common last Saturday, when four arrests were made and photographs showed police pulling women to the ground.

She added: ‘There is still significant parts of policing where there is a very toxic culture of sexism, of misogyny, that objectifies women. 

‘I’d like to say policing has moved on, and it has moved on compared to when I joined the police service back in the 80s. However, it hasn’t moved as far and as fast as society I think requires it to.’

Ms Fish, who was awarded an OBE for services to policing in 2008, spoke about police officers thinking it was a ‘perk of the job’ to find ‘vulnerable’ women to have sex with while on duty.

She said: ‘Male officers saw having sex on duty with women they’ve met through the course of their work as a perk of the job.

‘Generally it was uniform officers who would attend emergency calls perhaps about domestic violence where women might have been seen as sexually attractive, but certainly available, and certainly vulnerable women with drugs, mental health, alcohol issues.

‘Who’s going to believe a woman like that as opposed to an upstanding member of the police force with an impeccable record.’

She said one police officer was sent to jail and added the behaviour was now viewed as ‘corrupt’.

‘In my old force we started to address the officers who thought that having sex on duty was a perk of the job before it was deemed corruption nationally,’ she said.

Ms Fish made misogyny a hate crime in Nottinghamshire during her time with the force, but claims she was met with a ‘closing of ranks’.

Ms Fish told Emma Barnett (pictured) on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour there was institutional misogyny in the way the police handled a vigil in Clapham Common last Saturday, when four arrests were made and photographs showed police pulling women to the ground

‘There was a closing of ranks by some of my most senior colleagues, much more so than junior colleagues, to say “no we don’t need this. You’re only doing this because you’re a woman. You’re campaigning and changing legislation. That’s not the role of police officers. The role of police officers is to implement the law”. I agreed with the latter point.’

As a junior officer Ms Fish said she faced misogynistic comments from colleagues and struggled with how to deal with the treatment. 

‘My latter parts of service as a senior female officer you are quite insulated. So [sexism] was much more subtle, I would say, which then if you do challenge it’s “oh you’re really sensitive”. 

‘But certainly earlier in my service I faced it and you’ve got a couple of options. Either put up with it, hope it goes away and keep your head down.

Met Police confirmed the graphic did not contain photographic images, images of Sarah, or any other material obtained from or related to the investigation into Sarah’s murder

Police divers search near Rope Walk in Sandwich, Kent, after a body found hidden in woodland at Ashford was identified as that of 33-year-old Ms Everard

‘Or you challenge it and that’s exhausting and then you get marginalised and isolated and that’s really tough too. I’ve taken both those courses of action.’

She said there was misogyny in the way police ‘continually treat rape victims, how the criminal justice overall treats rape victims, how they treat domestic violence victims, those subject to harassment, historic matters about male officers seen having sex on duty with women they’ve met through the course of their work as a perk of the job, and indeed my own personal response when I brought in misogyny as a hate crime in Nottinghamshire, the first force in the country to do so’.

It comes as Met Commissioner Cressida Dick battles calls to resign over her force’s ‘heavy handed’ crackdown on a vigil for Ms Everard on Clapham Common on Saturday and the investigation into murder suspect Wayne Couzens. 

Couzens, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, was charged with Ms Everard’s murder and kidnap after she disappeared as she walked home to Brixton from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on March 3. 

Artist’s drawing of Wayne Couzens appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on Saturday for his first appearance in court

Bibaa Henry, 46, (left) and Nicole Smallman, 27, (right) were stabbed to death in a frenzied attack in Fryent Gardens, Wembley 

Meanwhile, horrified fellow officers reported a rookie officer for sending an inappropriate meme because they were concerned by its content. The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards was made aware on Friday. 

The probationary Met constable, who had been deployed as a cordon officer supporting the search operation in Kent, is said to have shared a meme showing images of a uniformed officer abducting a woman. 

The incident has now been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the officer has been removed from frontline duties. 

He is believed to have been placed in a non-public facing role while enquiries continue. 

In a statement, the Met Police confirmed the graphic did not contain photographic images, images of Sarah, or any other material obtained from or related to the investigation into Sarah’s murder. 

Corrine Priest (pictured) is a West End actress who appeared in the Les Misérables stage production 

A shaken Corrine posted the videos to Twitter shortly after the altercation, saying: ‘Trigger warning. Just got harassed, threatened and followed home because I told my mum on the phone that people aren’t wearing masks on the tube’

Sarah’s family have been made aware of the incident.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service expects its officers to behave professionally at all times and this includes how they use social media. 

‘I take allegations that any officer or officers have failed to observe these standards very seriously and have referred this matter to the IOPC.’

Ex-Met detective chief inspector Mick Neville told The Sun: ‘Being a frontline officer, dealing with crime and misery, often requires a gallows sense of humour to let off steam.

‘But any decent officer knows the limits. Joking about a horrific murder and kidnap, whilst the family is grieving, is completely unacceptable.

‘The last thing the Met needs is anything else to undermine the public’s trust in the force. This will do just that.’

Ms Priest (pictured) says she was called a ‘posh c***’ and a ‘sl**’ by the man as she walked home from Hendon Tube Station in London, and filmed the incident

It is the sixth referral of the Met to the IOPC regarding events surrounding the disappearance and murder of Ms Everard.  

The suspension of the officer for the Whatsapp message comes seven months after other Metropolitan Police officers were probed for misconduct when two constables were suspended for allegedly taking a selfie with the bodies of two sisters who had been murdered.

Nicole Smallman, 26, and her half-sister Bibaa Henry, 47, were found dead in Fryent Country Park in Wembley, north west London, in June – two days after they were reported missing.

Scotland Yard revealed two serving Metropolitan Police Constables were arrested on June 22 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.

In another blow to the force, an actress accused the Met Police of ‘ghosting her’ after officers failed to track down a suspect who harassed her as she walked home alone.  

Corrine Priest, who starred in Les Misérables in the West End, claims she was followed and harassed by a man after she complained about people not wearing face masks on the Tube.

Video footage shows the man calling her a ‘posh c***’ and a ‘sl**’ as she walked home from Hendon Tube Station in London last November.

Ms Priest says she gave officers the suspect’s name and telephone number, and footage of his appearance on a television dating show.

But four months on from the incident, she says Scotland Yard ignored her and fail to ‘take this kind of thing seriously.’

The disappearance of Sarah Everard and the arrest of armed policeman Wayne Couzens

March 3: Sarah disappeared after leaving friend’s home Clapham around 9pm. She leaves out of her friend’s back gate and speaks to her boyfriend on the phone for 15 minutes.  

March 5: Sarah’s family share missing posters of her after they become increasingly concerned that she is still not home, spreading the word online with links to the Missing People charity.

March 6: Met Police release an appeal, saying Sarah was thought to have walked through Clapham Common, heading towards Brixton home, a journey of 50 minutes. They say they are not certain she ever arrived home.

March 7: Police release footage of Ms Everard and say she was walking alone on A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill when she was last seen on CCTV, which has not been released to the police.

March 8: Specialist officers are drafted and 120 calls from public come in. A door-to-door operation sees police speak to 750 families.

March 9: Police search gardens near Ms Everard’s route and nearby Oaklands Estate.

Officers also search a pond in Clapham Common and drains along the A205.

Cordon around the Poynders Court housing complex on Poynders Road, forensics officers on scene.

11.59pm: Met police officer Wayne Couzens arrested in Kent on suspicion of kidnap. A woman in her 30s is arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Neighbours say they spotted a Land Rover containing two men watching the property for two hours before around 20 officers raided the house. 

March 10: Specialist police search team arrives in Kent. They search Couzens’ home and garden as well as nearby Betteshanger Park which is around two-and-a-half- miles from the house as well as an abandoned leisure complex in Great Chart near Ashford. 

8pm: Dame Cressida Dick confirms human remains were found in woodland in Ashford, Kent in the search for Sarah.  She was unable to confirm whether the remains belonged to the missing woman. 

March 11:  10am: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘shocked and deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation’, adding ‘we must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime’.

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: ‘Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence. At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family’. 

4pm: Police later confirm the suspect was treated in hospital for a head injury sustained while in custody, before being returned to a police station.

Ms Everard’s family release a statement paying tribute to her as a ‘shining example to us all’, adding that she ‘brought so much joy to our lives’.

The Met reveals an extension to the suspect’s detention was granted by a magistrates’ court, while the woman arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender is released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April. 

6pm: Organisers of a vigil for Ms Everard say they are seeking legal action against the Met after claiming the force reversed its position on allowing the event planned for March 13 to go ahead.

March 12: Searches ramp up in the tunnels carved into the White Cliffs of Dover that run around and below Couzens’ former family garage. 

Teams remain at Couzens’ home in Deal and in woodland near Ashford where human remains were found. 

2pm: Scotland Yard confirms the body found in Kent woodland is Sarah. Her family have been informed.

9pm: Wayne Couzens is charged with the murder and kidnapping of Miss Everard. 

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