Scotland Yard will no longer 'automatically believe' rape victims who come forward to them about assaults. Met Commissioner Cressida Dick has spoken to police officers and issued new guidelines around how to deal with rape accusations, telling them to investigate all allegations rather than believing victims as a default position. In a statement to The Times, she said: "You start with a completely open mind, absolutely. It is very important to victims to feel that they are going to be believed. Our default position is we are, of course, likely to believe you but we are investigators and we have to investigate." She also addressed the latest definitions of assault, talking about drunken catcalling and come-ons from friends or colleagues: "A misunderstanding between two people, clumsy behaviour between somebody who fancies somebody else, is not a matter for the police."
The move comes after victims of abuse, including of prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile, were apparently ignored by the Met police for years. In a 61-page report to the home secretary at the time, a report from police watchdog Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary described a "cultural mistrust" of evidence from children, and warned that procedures adopted by various agencies over many years had left vulnerable young people unprotected by the criminal justice system. As an initial response, the Met chose to implement guidelines in 2011 that victims should automatically be believed, but the choice was quickly criticised when the Met revealed that uncorroborated allegations of a Westminster sex abuse ring from a man known only as ‘Nick’ were ‘credible and true.’ The allegations were proven to be false.
It has been reported that more than £2 million ($2.8m) of Metropolitan Police money was spent on resources to investigating Nick's abuse allegations against prominent politicians in Westminster, before they were found to be false. 'Nick' is now facing charges of perverting the course of justice from the Crown Prosecution Service. A highly critical report into the Westminster Sex Ring case declared: "Those accused remained isolated and uninformed of the progress of these several investigations until finally being informed that there was an insufficiency of evidence against them. In short, these men are all victims of false allegations and yet they remain treated as men against whom there was insufficient evidence to prosecute them. The presumption of innocence appears to have been set aside." It seems the Met Police are keen to avoid another damning report.