Getaway (with it) driver-rapists like Reid and Worboys expose cultural failings

Systematic failings from the police over investigating a series of rapes and sexual offences perpetrated by a sexual predator in a car – the Kirk Reid case has an unpleasantly familiar ring.

Yes – it’s like the John Worboys case, the black-cab rapist who prowled the streets of London and used his vehicle as a place to trap and subdue dozens (possibly hundreds) of women, often using laced champagne.

The IPCC’s scathing criticism of the Metropolitan Police's botched effort to apprehend Kirk Reid makes for depressing reading. He attacked as many as 100 women across a seven-year period and the police missed chance after chance to catch him (including via the relatively simple route of checking DNA evidence). The phrase “no action taken” keeps cropping up in reports of how the police responded (or didn’t) when opportunities arose.

How could the Met have got it so wrong? The Telegraph blames it on a “targets” culture (the police having to meet clear-up rates on robbery etc), while Brian Paddick in the Independent suggests that squabbling between police teams was the real culprit.

Both look – partly – right. (I don’t want to turn this post into an anti-police tirade but you do have to wonder about policing priorities sometimes. See, for example, this ridiculous episode where a 16-year-old photographer was repeatedly hassled by an over-zealous – and under-informed – squad of police while trying to take photos of an Armed Forces Day parade in Romford at the weekend. Isn’t this a case of the police wasting police time?!)

At the heart of the Kirk Reid case, then, there seems to have been “cultural” failing. The police somehow “didn’t get it” over rape and sexual violence.

As Amnesty has reported before, there’s a kind of general attitudinal malaise in Britain when it comes to acknowledging how widespread rape is and how poor we are in tackling it. As I was saying in a post a few months ago, it’s depressing enough that attitudes to rape have “hardened” in the last half decade, with large numbers of people routinely blaming the woman herself for being a rape victim. It’s even more depressing that lessons are not being learnt and and the police failed so miserably over Reid.

In the end, I think, this case helps to highlight a complex failing that bedevils the way that the police and other agencies fail women in the UK: dubious and sometimes sexist attitudes, questionable policing priorities, inadequate or poorly-deployed resources, even a suspect “culture” within the police when it comes to tracking down those that commit violent acts against women – all these are, so to speak, ganging up against women.

As Amnesty and others have been saying for years, we’ll be talking about another Reid or another Worboys in the not-too-distant future unless there’s a fundamental shift. The call has been for an “integrated strategy” where government departments, NGOs and the frontline agencies (including the police) establish and get behind a serious plan with serious funding for combating violence against women in our country. So please, no more Reids, Worboys or other driver-rapists who get away with it for years.


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