Increase in “criminal” police recruits

An officer who exposed himself to a woman is among several Metropolitan Police recruits with criminal convictions.

Within the past three years the Met recruited individuals with records for ABH, multiple possession of cocaine, being drunk and disorderly, and assault – all of whom are still serving officers. Around a dozen other constabularies revealed an additional 78 officers with criminal records for serious offences – since 2018, Avon and Somerset has employed four officers with convictions or cautions for theft, one with a criminal record of fraud, and one of arson and criminal damage.

Leicestershire Police recruited seven officers with criminal records for offences, including distributing indecent photographs and sending an obscene or offensive message, all were given cautions or fixed penalty notices. Surrey has 30 serving officers, in ranks ranging from constable to detective superintendent, with criminal convictions or cautions. At Avon and Somerset Police, Det Chief Insp Gary Stephens said: “The nature of the conviction and sentence received, the applicant’s age at time of the offence and the individual circumstances are all carefully considered. Leicestershire Police stated that each case was “considered on its own merits” and that “all applications undergo a strict vetting process”.  Surrey Police said that the force’s policy had been to reject anyone with a criminal conviction since 2008.

An advocate for justice for women, Harriet Wistrich, called employing a known sex offender as a police officer “hugely concerning”, stating “There should be a bar on accepting convictions for sex offences.” The Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on Vetting, issued by the College of Policing, states that any candidate who has been a registered sex offender should not become a police officer, and nor should any offender who received a custodial sentence, even as a juvenile. The APP also states: “Particular care should be taken where an individual has been convicted of (or cautioned for) offences of dishonesty, corrupt practice or violence.” However, a loophole to the guidance exists, as someone convicted of exposure- but who only received a caution, rather than a conviction – could escape signing the Sex Offenders Register.

After one of its serving firearms-trained officers, Wayne Couzens, was charged over the killing of Sarah Everard in March, this revelation is the latest problem for the UK’s largest police force. Commenting on the recruit, the Met said: “The individual declared their conviction, committed 30 years ago when they were a juvenile. They received a supervision order for 12 months and a £25 fine. They were not placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. They had no other convictions.”