Rapists could have walked free after a whole freezer worth of evidence had to be thrown away by Met officers after it broke down during last year’s heatwave, a damning report found today.
Baroness Casey found intimate from countless rape probes, including swabs, blood, urine and underwear, has been destroyed because of broken fridges and freezers.
A lunchbox was even found in the same fridge as rape samples – a mistake that would have contaminated the evidence.
The review also found grievous failings in the treatment of victims, who were made to feel like an ‘inconvenience’ and ‘gaslighted’ by overworked and inexperienced officers.
Baroness Casey found intimate from countless rape probes, including swabs, blood, urine and underwear, has been destroyed because of broken fridges and freezers
All the fridges used for rape kits were in bad shape, packed and ruining evidence, Baroness Casey found. She described freezers overflowing with evidence samples, frosted over or taped shut.
In a heatwave last year, one broke down and all rape victims whose samples were in that fridge were told their cases would be dropped.
Forensic kits that preserve evidence obtained from survivors of sexual violence are stuffed in fridges so full it takes three officers to close them – one to push the door closed, one to hold it shut and one to secure the lock.
One female officer said she had ‘lost count’ of the number of times she had asked a colleague where the necessary evidence was before being told that it had been lost.
Another officer told of year-long waits for toxicology results and forensic examination of phones.
Separately police are being told to regularly delete their WhatsApps in the wake of a string of scandals about officers swapping vile messages with each other.
One officer said: ‘If you look at our performance around rape, serious sexual offences, the detection rate is so low you may as well say it’s legal in London.
‘It’s kind of reflective of how we treat and view our female colleagues. You get victim-blaming, looking at a situation and not believing them.’
Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens admitted yesterday that she did not know how many cases had been dropped as a result of the fridge issues.
Today, Baroness Casey said she does not have full confidence that the Metropolitan Police would treat a report of rape or sexual assault properly.
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 are assaulted, we always, always make sure it’s recorded.’
Asked if she has confidence the force would treat it properly, she said: ‘No, I don’t have full confidence that they would treat it properly. And I know that’s a terrible thing to say, but that’s the biggest thing that they have to change. It still means we should come forward.’
The review was ordered after the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens
Interviewed for the report, rape victims described being told they ‘should and could have done more’ to protect themselves by sarcastic, rude and dismissive investigators.
Many officers are desperate to close cases with NFA – ‘no further action’. One admitted: ‘The incentive is get it NFA’d because we have to do so much work to get it up and then the Crown Prosecution Service will NFA anyway.’
A community officer added: ‘The best outcome is closing a report to reduce your workload.’
One female officer who gave evidence to the report, identified only as G, said one male colleague also failed to understand why a case was a violent rape.
‘He actually said ‘if I put my d*** in your arse, you said ‘ow’, you were screaming and I stopped because you were screaming, is that still a rape?’ I was just asking which team needed to deal with it.’
Another quipped while dealing with an historical rape allegation: ‘Well if you’d told me 10 years ago, I’d get to talk about sex all day I’d never have believed it’.
The Met failed its own officers as well as the public, the report found.
One officer identified as A, who said she was beaten and raped multiple times by fellow Met officer X, was so distraught by the force’s handling of the case she tried to take her own life.
The case was passed between six different investigators in a year, with A being asked to give her account of what had happened each time, and being forced to move team to get away from her abuser.
She said: ‘I was getting so angry and so frustrated with them and I decided I couldn’t do it any more, I’m done, I need to get on with my life, I was in an absolute state, I had tried to kill myself that year because of the police investigation, it was draining the life out of me.’
After two years of investigation, no action was taken.
Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he was ‘upset, embarrassed and humbled’ by the report