A former top Met Police officer is facing investigations over claims he described the “large portion” of rape complaints as “regret sex,” according to a Channel 4 News investigation.
Sir Stephen House, who was acting Met Commissioner after the sacking of Dame Cressida Dick, is said to have made the comments to a Home Office adviser at a meeting at Scotland Yard in January 2022.
Sir Stephen strongly denies the allegations and said he welcomes the inquiry by the Independent Office of Police Conduct. He described the term “regret sex” as “abhorrent.”
The former top officer allegedly made the comments to Professor Betsy Stanko, who was appointed by the Interior Ministry to conduct a study into increasing the number of rape cases going to trial.
Professor Stanko started her review, Operation Soteria Bluestone’ in 2021 and met Sir Stephen at Scotland Yard in January 2022.
Sir Stephen House, who was acting Met Commissioner following the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick, is said to have made the comments to a Home Office adviser at a meeting at Scotland Yard in January 2022
The former top officer allegedly made the comments to Professor Betsy Stanko, who was appointed by the Interior Ministry to conduct a study into increasing the number of rape cases going to trial
In a report published in December, the review found “widespread deficiencies” in police rape and sex crimes departments. The researchers found that there was a culture of “unbelieving victims” and that officers had “ingrained prejudices.”
In an interview with Channel 4 News Investigations, editor Cathy Newman claims Professor Stanko Sir Stephen made the comments while meeting with top Scotland Yard officers to discuss the findings of her project.
Prof Stanko said: ‘It felt like he (Sir Stephen) was trying to play down what the problem was, not take it seriously. He used terms to describe – or a term to describe – what he believed to be most rape complaints, namely the term “regret sex.”
On the issue of ‘regret sex’, Prof. Stanko added: ‘The only way I understand the term regretful sex – and it was said by officers elsewhere, in the other forces we visited and investigated – is about the victim. Again the victim is mistaken. That that fault line of forced sex, which is rape, was not crossed because it must have been confusion. The problem was about confusion, not about the facts or evidence that could have been gathered if someone tried to investigate a rape.’
prof. Stanko made her first public comments since her research was published.
In response to the allegations, the Metropolitan Police have asked the IOPC to investigate the allegation.
It is alleged that Sir Stephen made the comments at a meeting at Scotland Yard, pictured
Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens said: ‘After being made aware of an allegation that the comments were made by a senior Metropolitan Police officer, we are referring the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.’
In a statement to Channel 4 News, Sir Stephen said:
“I have dedicated more than four decades of public service to protecting the public from predatory offenders.
I categorically deny the use of the phrase “regret sex”. These are not words I’ve ever used in connection with rape or assault and the reason I’m so sure I didn’t say this is because I just don’t believe it; I find the expression repulsive.
“I find this characterization of mine deeply disturbing, and colleagues who know me know how untrue it is.”
Channel 4 News said it spoke to two people they believe were in the room at the time the alleged comments were made. One said they “couldn’t remember” the comments, while the other supported Prof. Stanko’s account.
Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Sara Crew, who oversaw Operation Soteria Bluestone, said she “has no reason not to believe Prof Stanko’s account.”
Prof Stanko passed the allegation on to the chief constable in charge of the National Police Chiefs’ Council on adult sex offences.
She said: “The reference to “repentant sex” was one of many comments collected by academics pointing to outdated cultures and beliefs in the Metropolitan Police Service and other forces.
She added: “I cannot say whether the then deputy commissioner made those comments as I was not present at the meeting where they are said to have been made.”
On her take on whether House’s alleged comments reflect a broader pattern in policing, Crew added:
“It doesn’t surprise me because we found it in five police forces.”
The inquiry includes the Chief Constable Crew’s reflections on the successes of ‘Operation Soteria Bluestone’, having scrutinized its own forces as part of the review and its hopes that police credibility can be restored. Crew Comments:
“Our legitimacy depends on us addressing these things that exist within our organizations in our institution, in our culture, and it’s going to take a systematic approach to do this and there’s a role for each of us in that.”
Cathy Newman also asked Professor Stanko if she was confident that the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley will solve the current problems of rape and violence against women, Stanko notes:
“I’m not sure I’d say confidence, I’d say I’m hopeful he will. I think the job is a chore. I think much more organizational change is needed than I think at the moment.”
In a statement to Channel 4 News, Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said:
“Rape is a heinous crime that has a devastating and lasting impact.
“The comments in the Operation Soteria Bluestone report are completely unacceptable.
“We recognize that they threaten to further undermine victims’ confidence to come forward and we deeply regret this.
“Having been made aware of an allegation that the comments were made by a senior Metropolitan Police officer, we are referring the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior said: ‘Rape and sex crimes are among the most traumatic of crimes, and it is essential that victims know they are being taken seriously and that their allegations are thoroughly investigated.
“Now that it has been referred to the IOPC, the Home Secretary has agreed with the Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, that Sir Stephen House will step away from the inquiry into police productivity.”
Sir Stephen House’s full statement to Channel 4 News following tonight’s allegations
Sir Stephen House, pictured, strongly denies the allegation and says he looks forward to the IOPC inquiry into his conduct
Dear Ms. Newman,
I have dedicated more than four decades of public service to protecting the public from predatory offenders.
I categorically deny the use of the phrase “regret sex.” These are not words I’ve ever used in connection with rape or assault and the reason I’m so sure I didn’t say this is because I just don’t believe it; I find the expression repulsive.
Rape is a truly heinous crime and I, and many other colleagues, have strived to improve services to rape victims; of course there is much more to do. I and the Met accepted all the recommendations of the authors of this work and immediately began implementing them to improve the Met’s response to rape and serious sexual assault.
Throughout my police career, and particularly in recent years as Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, Police Scotland and as Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, I have led thousands of officers in their work to bring rape offenders to justice, to ensure that victims are listened to, supported and protected, and priority is given to investigation and detection of rape.
As a public servant and as a father of two daughters, I find this characterization of mine deeply disturbing, and colleagues who know me know how untrue it is.
I believe the Metropolitan Police will refer this situation to the IOPC to investigate and I wholeheartedly welcome this.
Sir Steve House QPM