Calls grow for full public inquiry into Gwent Police
Calls are mounting for a full public inquiry into Gwent Police as the force says it continues to be horrified by the allegations that have emerged to date.
Four Gwent Police officers have been suspended, and another placed on restricted duties as part of an investigation into claims of racism, misogyny and homophobia in the force.
Rachel Williams is the founder of SUTDA (Stand Up to Domestic Abuse). She is a survivor of 18 years of severe domestic abuse, which ended in 2011 when her abuser shot her with a sawn-off shot gun before hanging himself.
Speaking to Nation.Cymru she said: “I had dealings with Gwent Police 11 years ago with my shooting. There were massive failings then – but it’s not just Gwent Police mind!
“For me, working in this sector I see and hear from many victims and survivors from across the country about certain police officers, and how they are not dealing with cases, in a way they should be.”
Ms Williams believes, she said that: “Police Officers, when they put an uniform on, should be snow white. If they’re caught and convicted of anything like violence towards women they should be stripped of their pension.
“We have to stop this and stop paying them for their bad behaviour.”
In the New Year, Ms Williams intends to start a petition to this effect. She’s had excellent results with petitions in the past. Her non-fatal strangulation petition, which received over 100,000 signatures resulted in it being made a stand-alone offence in June of this year.
It will now have a place in the Domestic Abuse Bill and carry a maximum sentence of up to 5 years for anyone convicted of this violent crime.
Ms Williams added: “Between June and the end of October this year, the Crown Prosecution Service have already charged 127 perpetrators with non-fatal strangulation and non-fatal affixation”
Policing is not devolved to Wales, therefore the decision to hold a public inquiry is one for the UK Government’s Home Office. However, Ms Williams believes Mark Drakeford should be calling out for one.
“I think the First Minister should be stepping up and asking the Home Office for a public inquiry into Gwent Police. The way forward is for the Welsh Government to volunteer to have a public inquiry into all of this, to set an example and say: ‘we will not tolerate this at all’.”
The IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) with the help of the Wiltshire Police force are currently conducting an inquiry into Gwent Police.
“There will be more developments over the months ahead, and I think we’ll see and hear a lot more when the IOPC release their report,” said Ms Williams.
In November 2021 Gwent Police issued an apology to two former female officers for the way it handled their reports of abusive behaviour by senior officer Clarke Jocelyn.
According to Ms Williams, the two victims came to her six or seven years ago and she raised it with Jeff Cuthbert who has been the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent since May 2016. She also took their complaints to a BBC television producer, a prominent Welsh politician who has since passed away, and the Independent Office for Police Conduct as it was then known, she said.
“I even took it to Welsh Women’s Aid and nobody wanted to touch it. Had this been dealt with then, Clarke Jocelyn wouldn’t have been suspended on full pay for four years before he decided to step down – of his own accord – before he was sacked. He’s sitting on a nice little pension pot now.”
Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert didn’t want to do an interview with Nation.Cymru.
We asked former North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, how he’d go about dealing with the problems at Gwent Police. He was also a serving police officer for 30 years and made it to the rank of Inspector, before being elected Commissioner.
Mr Jones said his main policy when elected was to tackle domestic violence. To this end, he issued North Wales Police officers with body cameras in order to collect evidence.
He said: “Domestic violence was my main priority and as PCC, I was responsible for leading and for setting the agenda. Your agenda will influence the culture within the police.”
Mr Jones, has no doubt, he said: “There are misogynistic police officers in every force and officers who abuse their own family. The problem is worse in some forces …”
But is this type of behaviour, and attitude, more of a problem within the police than in society in general?
“The police, like the armed forces, attract people who like power and who want to use it. I think the vetting process is not thorough enough. Many come into the police having had army or military experience.”
He added that, for obvious reasons, police forces are looking for team players rather than individuals with initiative.
“Team players are easier to control. But if you have a team of officers and one of them does something wrong, the tendency is to circle the wagons and protect (that officer). We need to look at recruitment – it’s obvious that people are being recruited into the police who shouldn’t be there because of their attitude. Progress has been made, but some are slipping through the net.”
Had similar problems emerged on his patch, and on his watch, when he was Commissioner, Mr Jones said: “I would go public, I’d be banging the drums for a public inquiry. It’s easy for Gwent Police to say Wiltshire Police are looking into this but Wiltshire are a small force.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said that any decision about an inquiry would be premature as the facts are still being determined.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Police forces must root out officers and staff who do not meet acceptable standards of behaviour to restore the public’s trust, which has been shattered by recent high-profile events.”
A statement from Gwent Police said: “We continue to be horrified by the allegations that have emerged to date. We are committed to taking action and we have suspended four officers and placed another officer on restricted duties. The IOPC are now leading on the investigation and we are therefore unable to comment further on the ongoing matter.
Chief Constable Pam Kelly added: “I am clear that we are determined to challenge and remove those who do not uphold our values.”
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