The head of the Metropolitan police's sex crime unit has been accused of ignoring justice for victims after he suggested using "Al Capone type tactics" to prosecute suspects for offenses other than rape.
Speaking to the Guardian, Sapphire head Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie said police could use new tactics such as shutting down pubs with high levels of rape and a new prevention campaign.
"These are Al Capone type tactics. We will possibly end up prosecuting them for something other than rape. We don't want them out there committing sexual offences so if they are disqualified from driving or locked up for having weapons this will help prevent rape," he said.
But Vivienne Hayes, CEO, Women’s Resource Centre said Duthie's plan would not prevent future offenses.
"Keeping offenders off the streets by charging them with unrelated offenses achieves absolutely nothing by way of changing attitudes or preventing future offences. Furthermore, it completely negates justice for survivors, heightening women’s feelings of disenfranchisement towards the Met Police."
The Met police's Sapphire unit has been the subject of controversy, with women's groups claiming the lack of rapes reported in London was due to lack of confidence in the police. Last month a former Met police detective constable, Ryan Coleman-Farrow, admitted failing to investigate alleged rapes through faking police reports and not passing on evidence or interviewing suspects.
Criminologist and former chair of Rape Crisis Nicole Westmarland said it was interesting" to see "new ideas put into the investigation of rape", but she cautioned that "treating victim-survivors right through caring officers and well trained, hardworking detectives should remain of primary importance."
In his interview Duthie also said it was important to "educate" people that they could be vulnerable to rape.
"We do need to educate people that if they go out and get hammered they are vulnerable – vulnerable to being assaulted – vulnerable to falling over and vulnerable to being raped," he said.
Hayes said his comments were "worrying" and accused him of normalising "victim blaming".
"Such comments frighteningly normalise ‘victim blaming’; they re-allocate blame from the perpetrator to the victim. He goes on to say that vulnerability includes ‘drink, drugs, mental health, age’ – none of which should be regarded as invitations to rape. The problem is not that of ‘vulnerability’ but of a ‘macho culture’ which breeds the notion of male entitlement – it is a culture which is further fed by a police force which consistently fails women through disbelief, victim blaming, failure to investigate and falsification of records.
"We would therefore suggest that Sapphire shifts its tactics away from educating women, to focus on the ‘macho culture’ it fosters," she told The Huffinton Post UK.
"The women’s sector has decades of experience in dealing with issues of rape and assault, and would welcome any meaningful attempt on the part of the Met, to engage and share learnings in formulating such strategies."
Holly Dustin, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, welcomed the targeting of pubs, but said there needed to be ongoing "public campaigns".
“But this must be part of a wider programme of work to prevent rape and sexual violence such as investment in ongoing public campaigns that focus on the attitudes and behaviour of potential perpetrators, rather than women," she told The Huffington Post UK.
“We also want to see a priority made of work with young people in school, particularly boys, which challenges attitudes that condone sexual violence and discusses consent and respect. It is also vital that for women and girls who do experience assault, there are adequately funded women's services in the community to support them."