Two Metropolitan Police officers have been issued written warnings after they discouraged a 15-year-old victim from reporting her Croydon car park rape.
At the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) misconduct hearing, which concluded on 3 October, PC Michael Silverthorne was issued a final written warning for gross misconduct and PC Stephen Tanner a written warning for misconduct.
Footage reviewed by the panel during the misconduct hearing showed the 15-year-old providing the two officers with a clear account of her February 2017 ordeal, for which the girl’s attacker was later arrested and charged, and jailed for seven and a half years for rape.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The conduct of these officers in how they spoke with a 15-year-old girl who it was later proved had been raped by a stranger only hours earlier was concerning.
“The independent panel found that the officers did not intentionally set out to dissuade the girl but that their failings were serious, and could have damaged public confidence.
“The officers’ demeanour clearly suggested they did not believe the girl at a time when her account should have been formally recorded.
“An individual should have their allegation recorded with an objective investigation to follow.
“It is of credit to this teenager, and the MPS officers who took this investigation on afterwards, that the rape was investigated properly and the offender subsequently jailed.
“The actions of the two officers might have prevented that from happening.”
PC Silverthorne led the conversation with the victim, in which he repeatedly emphasised that going through with a rape allegation would be a very traumatic ordeal, and questioned if she was sure she wanted to pursue it.
He also made numerous incorrect statements as he told her she must have all of a list of forensic tests conducted, that she would need to attend the Old Bailey and stand in the dock to give her account, and pressured her that she must make her decision in the next hour.
PC Silverthorne did not make her aware of special measures provisions available that help vulnerable witnesses give their best evidence in court and he also failed to record her account, as is required of a first responder.
The footage also showed PC Tanner had two radio conversations in which he expressed doubts over her credibility.
PC Tanner also failed to record the victim’s account and did not effectively challenge PC Silverthorne’s approach during their interaction.
Rape Crisis South London is a charity that provides support to women who are identified as survivors of sexual violence.
Yvonne Traynor, Rape Crisis South London CEO, said: “I was horrified to read about the experience this young girl had to go through when she reported such a heinous crime to the police.
“The officers made a deliberate judgement about her credibility rather than providing a professional service to someone who was traumatised and then tried to deter her from reporting.
“These are not the actions we expect from police officers but it highlights the need for sexual violence and trauma training for all officers who should be protecting women and girls and not deterring them from coming forward to report.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “The Met is committed to providing the best possible service to all victims of rape and serious sexual offences.
“We have a responsibility to safeguard and support all victims through what is a hugely traumatic or harrowing experience, and officers are specially trained to treat all victims with dignity and respect throughout the process.
“Victims of rape have been traumatised and we expect our officers to act professionally with compassion and empathy to instil trust and confidence in the criminal justice system that starts with their first contact with police.
“We are working to improve our response to victims of rape and we are committed to working with partners in the criminal justice system and support services to improve their journey.
“Victims show great bravery in reporting offences committed against them to police and it takes courage to bring offenders to justice, we will support them through this process.”