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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Met Police ‘ordered child abuse detectives to caution innocent people to hit targets’

‘Unlawful’ orders

He was repeatedly given “unlawful” orders, he alleges, and he believes that his refusal to comply led to disciplinary proceedings against him.

His allegations include that he was ordered to arrest two innocent men for serious child abuse accusations for which there was no evidence and on another to report a dog to the RSPCA despite no concerns about its wellbeing or behaviour.

Mr Coling said that he raised complaints with his superiors but was told that he needed to understand “firstly, that neither of them had to account to me for their actions and secondly, that I was to do whatever I was ordered to do”.

In January 2014, just weeks after he says he refused to tamper with evidence, he was subject to disciplinary proceedings because he was not keeping up with workload.

He lodged a complaint about his treatment and the orders that he was given.

He believes that they failed to address all his major concerns and he appealed but lost. In a response to his latest complaints earlier this year, the director of professional standards noted that at least five of his major concerns were not addressed during the process.

‘Institutional rot’

Feeling unable to continue, Mr Coling left the force to retrain as a solicitor but continued to fight the “institutional rot” he thinks has corrupted the Metropolitan Police.

In 2017 he repeated his allegations to the director of professional standards, but was told that they could not investigate it as under the Police Reform Act 2002

“You cannot make a complaint about ‘a person who at the time of the alleged conduct was under the direction and control of the same chief office as the person whose conduct it was’”.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct agreed that complaining about his own team was an “abuse of process”.

Mr Coling believes that internally the matters were “covered up” and says that the rules raise serious concerns about the ability of police officers to expose corruption in their force.

“The public needs to be confident that when an officer raises a complaint about the conduct of one of their own, it will be appropriately investigated. In my case, that simply didn’t happen,” he said.

Claims ‘thoroughly investigated’

Both the Met and IOPC said that they had whistleblowing lines where officers could complain about the conduct of their colleagues and each case would be judged on its merits.

Scotland Yard said they expect the “highest level of professional conduct” from all their staff and Mr Coling’s allegations had been “thoroughly investigated” and no evidence was found to support them.

In the alleged evidence tampering the “witness account did not support the complainant’s version of events” and there was “no indication that anyone may have committed a criminal offence, nor behaved in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings”, they added.

Mr Coling is not alone in his concerns about the unit, investigations by this newspaper have found.

‘Everyone feared reprisals’

DC Jan Pyle, who worked alongside him during her 20 years in the force before retiring in 2014, said that “everyone feared reprisals”.

“We are always told to arrest people if an allegation is made, even if there has been no crime,” she recalled. “They are trying to get their detection numbers up.”

Another detective, who left the force last year and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “There was one officer who used to do loads of cautions and I did think it was odd that she had all these clear-ups. I worked with her one day and she had this woman sit in her car and got her to sign the caution form, it was all very informal.”

She said that in one case there was no evidence but she had to ask her superior to take no further action (NFA).

“He’d throw the case back to me and say you can caution that, don’t NFA it,” she said. “A lot of the time where they accept a caution it’s because they don’t understand the impact.”

“If you get a caution for shoplifting or theft it doesn’t have much impact, but if it’s child related and you are working with children or vulnerable people you are screwed.”

‘Breaking point’

She said that officers were required to update victims on progress and she “was aware that with one team the sergeant got a person to go through every (crime) report and tick the boxes even though the updates had not been done.”

By 2019 the child abuse investigation units across the capital were “at breaking point” and “everyone was off sick with stress”, she said.

Other officers have told this newspaper of the “horrendous experience” of working in a “chronically understaffed” department and how they were targeted by their bosses because they complained about orders.

Scotland Yard vehemently denied that there was a target culture and said that they were “committed” to making sure their staff feel supported.

A spokesman noted a number of improvements that the force had made in tackling child abuse, including 70 additional posts within the child abuse investigation teams. A dedicated lead responsible officer will be appointed this autumn for “additional oversight”, they said.

“There is absolutely no truth in allegations that child abuse investigation teams are target-driven or that officers are under pressure to achieve certain outcomes,” a spokesman said.

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