First Sarah Everard, Then David Carrick: Can The Met Change?

David Carrick's case is yet another reminder of how much work still needs to be done within the London force.

Demands for reform within the UK’s largest police force are nothing new.

The Met Police has been under particularly intense scrutiny since 2021 – and with good reason.

The kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard during lockdown by a then serving Met Police officer triggered outrage, nationwide protests, and pleas for change to reduce misogyny and predatory behaviour. Officers were also criticised for trying to suppress a subsequent vigil in Everard’s honour.

Other scandals have eroded the Met’s reputation in the last three years, too:

Last week, the case of David Carrick has left critics reeling once again, as it seems (at least on the surface) that little has changed behind the scenes.

Speaking at the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, the Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley vowed to make a significant change to the force’s culture following the Carrick case.

He said this would start with two or three cases against officers going to court every week for the new few months.

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened with David Carrick?

A firearms officer who worked in the same unit as Everard’s killer, Wayne Couzens, admitted on Monday to a series of sex offences – nearly 90 in total, including 48 rapes.

The news has stunned the UK, especially as this makes him one of Britain’s worst sex offenders.

The police had missed at least nine opportunities across ten years to stop Carrick when he was repeatedly reported for his criminal, predatory behaviour towards women. Among colleagues, he was nicknamed ‘Bastard Dave’.

He worked in the Met’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command and admitted to the offences, including assault by penetration, coercive control, false imprisonment and sexual assault”.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Rowley, appointed last year in a bid to restore the force’s reputation, admitted that the force had “failed” and said he was “sorry”. He vowed to “reform at speed” – a promise which has been repeated since March 2021.

What makes Carrick’s case particularly shocking?

The time of his arrest

It was just months after the death of Everard rocked the nation that Carrick was first arrested for rape back in July 2021.

However, he was not suspended from the police force, even though this happened just days after fellow officer Couzens pleaded guilty to the kidnap, rape and murder of Everard.

Carrick was allowed to continue working on restricted duties and was not re-vetted. The restrictions were lifted when the victim chose not to proceed and the case was dropped.

This report was not connected to the series of complaints about his predatory behaviour.

Carrick was only suspended three months after that when charged with a different rape. His victim had come forward because of the Everard protests.

Carrick was officially sacked by the Met Police on Tuesday, January 17, 2023, and set to be sentenced on Monday, February 6.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Metropolitan police officer David Carrick, appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Metropolitan police officer David Carrick, appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court, London
Elizabeth Cook via PA Wire/PA Images

His history

Carrick was reported to the Met and three other police forces on nine difference occasions before his arrest, and there were 14 complaints against him.

He joined the force in 2001 and offended repeatedly until he was finally charged with rape in October 2021. This was the eighth time in a decade that the police were warned about his behaviour.

Other victims came forward once he was named during his court appearance for rape.

According to reports, he used his status (and official warrant card) as an officer to lure women in when he was off duty.

Hertfordshire Police have also created an online portal for any additional potential victims to report Carrick’s crimes.

The Met say there is “nothing to suggest” Carrick and Couzens knew each other. However, it did acknowledge that there was a 16-year gap in the mandatory vetting checks on Carrick. For context, the vetting process of every officer is supposed to be repeated every 10 years.

An ex-girlfriend of Carrick’s also told The Sun: “He said he was so far at the top [of the Met] that he was untouchable.”

What’s happened within the force since 2021?

Since Carrick’s arrest in October 2021, the Met has repeatedly made headlines as it attempts to reform the force.

Then-Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick stepped down in February 2022, following the onslaught of criticism over her handling of the case.

This was the same month Baroness Louise Casey launched an independent review of the Met’s culture and standards of behaviour.

In March, public confidence in the police fell to a record low of 49%.

The Met was then placed in special measures in June 2022 by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue services – meaning it will be monitored and forced to produce an improvement plan.

In September, Rowley took up the role of Commissioner.

By October, Baroness Casey’s review said it had found the Met’s failing internal disciplinary process created an “anything goes” culture which allowed officers responsible for “truly awful” and “hair-raising” bigotry and criminal behaviour to keep their jobs. The full report will be out in February 2023.

In November 2022, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found that police vetting standards are not high enough and it is too easy for the wrong people to join and stay in the force.

Sir Mark Rowley, Met Police commissioner
Sir Mark Rowley, Met Police commissioner
Danny Lawson via PA Wire/PA Images

So, how has the Met actually tried to reform?

Responding to the Carrick case, Rowley admitted: “I do know an apology doesn’t go far enough, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge our failings and for me to say I’m sorry.”

The Met has listed the following measures as means to reform the force:

  • Setting up a new anti-corruption and abuse command, with more than 400 additional officers and staff looking to investigate offenders in the force.
  • A domestic abuse and sexual offending investigation team has been set up with more than 50 investigators looking into officers or staff.
  • All officers and staff who have been subject to allegations of sexual offending or domestic abuse, are subject to an ongoing review.
  • They have sent out an internal appeal within the Met, and new public appeals, alongside an anti-corruption and abuse hotline for the public to report Met officers and staff.
  • Working more proactively against problematic officers “than ever before” with new leadership, according to Rowley.
  • Asking all UK police forces to carry out database checks in the wake of the Carrick case.

Rowley added that the recent reviews into the Met have prompted the service to invest millions (the government increased the Met’s annual budget to £3.24 billion in 2022 to 2023), although it’s worth noting police funding was cut by up to 20% annually over the last decade.

He said they would have completed reviewing all staff and officers who have concerning domestic or sexual incidents reports against them (named Operation Onyx) by the end of March.

All officers will have their details checks against police, national intelligence data in the police national database, and a full review of the national vetting process.

They will test new legal routes to dismiss those who fail vetting.

The Met Police commissioner has also just revealed that two to three criminal cases against officers are expected to go to court every week in the coming months.

He said the cases are a “mix of dishonesty, violence and violence against women and girls”.

Speaking on Wednesday, Rowley said that the Met will “probably find many cases where we got it wrong” in their review of around 1,000 allegations relating to officers and staff historically accused of sexual offences and domestic abuse.

“It will be painful. We need your support and the support of the people of London… as we rid the organisation of those who corrupt our integrity,” he said.

The Met’s website claims that the vetting process has already been improved, too.

“It is now the case that if an officer or staff member is arrested or is being investigated for a serious offence, consideration is given to a full review of that individual’s circumstances including the possibility that re-vetting would be required.

This is a change from the approach that was in place in 2021 when such an arrest did not always result in consideration of a vetting review.”

The Met has also passed some of its decision-making around Carrick onto the watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, to be reviewed.

Is it enough?

The Met has implied that Carrick would not pass the vetting process now.

The Met deputy assistant commissioner Helen Millichap said: “Our approach has changed significantly and we are more confident this pattern [of predatory and criminal behaviour] would be identified now, and that it would result in further investigation.”

But, Rowley still has plenty of work to do.

Zoe Billingham, who served at the police inspectorate for more than a decade until 2021, told the FT: “He will need to be very upfront with the public and be clear that there will be more of these [scandals] before it gets better.”

And, as prime minister Rishi Sunak said last week trust in the police is “shattered”, while home secretary Suella Braverman said the case was a “sobering moment” for the Met and the reputation for “British policing as a whole”.

She said: “I have been clear that culture and standards in the police need to change.”

It’s also worth noting that while the Met apologised to Carrick’s victims, it did not respond directly to questions about who was responsible for the length of time the police officer was able to get about with his criminal activity.

But, on Wednesday, Rowley did refer to the “ghastly” case of Carrick, and said: “We’re all equally horrified we have hundreds in policing who should be here, Carrick is an awful example of that.”


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