The violators could have walked free after Met officials had to dump worth of evidence from a freezer after it broke down during last year’s heat wave, according to a damning report found today.
Baroness Casey found intimate remains from countless rape investigations, including swabs, blood, urine, and underwear, which were destroyed due to broken refrigerators and freezers.
A lunch box was even found in the same fridge as the rape samples, a mistake that would have contaminated the evidence.
The review also found serious flaws in the treatment of victims, who were made to feel like a ‘inconvenient’ and ‘gaslighted’ by overworked and inexperienced officers.
Overall, the Met’s record on rape is so poor that the crime is effectively “legal” in London, an official said.
Baroness Casey found something intimate from countless rape investigations, including swabs, blood, urine, and underwear, which has been destroyed due to broken refrigerators and freezers.
All the refrigerators used for the rape kits were in disrepair, full and ruining evidence, Baroness Casey discovered. She described freezers overflowing with evidence samples, frosted or taped shut.
In a heat wave last year, one went bad and all the rape victims whose samples were in that fridge were told their cases would be withdrawn.
Forensic teams that preserve evidence from survivors of sexual violence are crammed into refrigerators so full it takes three officers to close them: one to push the door, one to hold it shut, and one to secure the lock.
One officer said she had “lost count” of the number of times she had asked a colleague where the necessary evidence was before being told it had been lost.
Another officer spoke of the year-long wait for toxicology results and forensic examination of the phones.
Separately, police are being told to regularly delete their WhatsApp in the wake of a series of scandals about officers exchanging vile messages with each other.
One officer said: ‘If you look at our performance on rape and serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you might as well say it’s legal in London.
“It kind of reflects how we treat and view our female colleagues. You get to blame the victim, look at a situation and not believe them.’
Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens admitted yesterday that she did not know how many cases had been thrown out as a result of the fridge problems.
Today, Baroness Casey said she does not have full confidence that the Metropolitan Police will properly deal with a complaint of rape or sexual assault.
Asked if she would report a rape or sexual assault to the Met, she told Times Radio: “So as a woman, I think it’s absolutely important that when we’re assaulted, we always make sure it’s on record.”
Asked if he was confident that the force would treat him properly, he said: ‘No, I don’t have full confidence that they will treat him properly. And I know that saying that is terrible, but that is the most important thing that they have to change. It still means that we must step up.
The review was ordered after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by Met officer Wayne Couzens.
Interviewed for the report, rape victims described being sarcastic, rude and dismissive by investigators telling them they “should and could have done more” to protect themselves.
Many officers are desperate to close cases with NFA – ‘no further action’. One admitted: ‘The incentive is to get the NFA because we have to work so hard to get it and then the Crown Prosecution Service will do it anyway.’
A community officer added: ‘The best outcome is to close a report to reduce your workload.’
A female officer who provided evidence for the report, identified only as G, said a male colleague also failed to understand why one case was a violent rape.
“She actually said ‘if I stick my dick up your ass, you said ‘ouch’, you were yelling and I stopped because you were yelling, is that still rape?” She was just asking which team needed to deal with it.
Another joked while dealing with a landmark rape allegation: “Well, if you told me 10 years ago I’d talk about sex all day, I never would have believed it.”
The Met failed its own officials, as well as the public, according to the report.
An officer identified as A, who said she was beaten and raped multiple times by her fellow Met X officer, was so distraught by the force’s handling of the case that she tried to take her own life.
The case passed between six different investigators in a year, and A was asked to recount what had happened each time and forced to switch teams to get away from her abuser.
She said: ‘I was so angry and so frustrated with them and decided I couldn’t do it anymore, I’m done, I need to move on with my life, I was in an absolute state, I had attempted suicide that year because of the police investigation, I was taking my life.’
After two years of investigation, no action was taken.
Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he was “upset, embarrassed and honoured” by the report.