Women’s groups call for full inquiry into Gwent Police misconduct allegations
Welsh Women’s Aid and the Welsh Women’s Equality Party have demanded a “full inquiry” and a “complete change of culture” following misconduct allegations levelled at officers within Gwent Police
The calls come after three police officers were suspended from the force over claims of misogyny, racism and homophobia, which emerged when a phone owned by former Sergeant Ricky Jones, who took his own life in 2020, was found to contain offensive message exchanges with former colleagues.
Last weekend a Sunday Times investigation revealed that racist images, pornographic videos and sensitive information about misconduct and corruption investigations were among the material exchanged.
A separate investigation into complaints from the family of Sgt Jones related to Gwent Police’s handling of its investigation into his death and officers’ contact with his relatives is being managed by Wiltshire Police.
Further to this, another Gwent Police officer was dismissed this week after gross misconduct was proven at a police disciplinary hearing, following an Independent Office for Police Conduct-directed investigation.
PC Robert Davies was found to have breached police professional standards after engaging in inappropriate and unprofessional text message conversations with three female members of the public between January and May 2020.
The women’s groups are calling for “root and branch” reform and say that the “endemic” prevalence of misogyny within the force deters women from reporting the abuse they experience, and effectively protects abusers who serve as police officers.
The statement from Welsh Women’s Aid reads: “As further updates emerge around the misconduct allegations levelled at officers within Gwent Police, we are growing increasingly concerned that measures put in place to address this fall far short of being able to bring about the changes that are so urgently needed.
“Reading the testimonies of the family of Ricky Jones, we are disappointed that survivors of domestic abuse are not being listened to by Gwent Police.
“We fully support the family in their quest for justice and reform and we add our voice to calls for a full independent investigation into misconduct allegations at Gwent Police. It is only with impartial and thorough scrutiny that we can hope to see any real culture change across the Force, and for trust to be built.
“Endemic misogyny, racism, survivors not being believed, a culture of belittling traumatising experiences and rates of charges against perpetrators remaining woefully low – these are some of the very reasons that the vast majority of women choose not to report male violence and abuse to the Police when it happens to them.
“Despite attempts to address this situation by Gwent Police, women have always known that this was never about the ‘odd bad apple’. There is evidenced institutional misogyny and widespread exploitation of a position of power within the Police and we need to see independent scrutiny, measurable accountability and root-and-branch reform to put an end to this once and for all.
“Women in Wales need to see Gwent Police, and indeed all Police Forces across the country, initiate a complete culture change which places respect for women as a top priority.
“On behalf of the 1 in 3 women who will experience male violence in their lifetime, we are calling on Gwent Police and all Police Forces in Wales to listen to women. Believe women. Show respect and empathy as a minimum.”
Following the allegations of abuse and the WhatsApp revelations, the Welsh Women’s Equality Party held a candle lit vigil outside Gwent police HQ on Friday night.
The protest was supported by the wife and daughter of the accused officer, who report suffering years of abuse by him, which they felt unable to report it to the police because of his links to the force.
His daughter said: “The police are there to protect women and girls from abuse, but only if your abuser is not a police officer.”
Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Mandu Reid, said: “We are tired of being told that it’s a few bad apples. How much more evidence does the Home Secretary need that misogyny is baked into police forces across the UK? It’s not enough to simply investigate these forces as though they are isolated incidents.
“Unless there is a proper inquiry, with statutory powers, the culture in our police forces will never change. That means fewer women will come forward to report violence against them, and more perpetrators will get away with it – including police officers themselves.”
Hanna Andersen, Leader of the Welsh Women’s Equality Party said: “I want people to see the way this police force failed this family, and the things that police officers say about women behind closed doors, so that they understand how hard it is for women to seek help and why sexual violence against women is all but decriminalised. This is simply not good enough.”
Anyone experiencing male violence or abuse, or those concerned about somebody at risk of male violence – support is available to you now.
Live Fear Free is a confidential and independent helpline that can provide advice and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 0808 80 10 800 / text 07860077333 / email email@example.com.”
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In context, this is not an issue specifically for Gwent. It’s ALL EPCGB police forces. And apparently fire services.
The nation’s “protectors” are anything but.