Senior police officer referred to watchdog over alleged rape comments

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A senior-ranking police officer has been referred to a watchdog over alleged comments he made about the “bulk” of rape complaints being “regretful sex”.

Sir Stephen House reportedly denies the comments made to a Home Office adviser at a Scotland Yard meeting in January 2022 – when he was Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The force said the alleged comments are “wholly unacceptable”, and referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Professor Betsy Stanko, an adviser appointed by the Home Office to conduct Operation Soteria – a report on the way the police responds to rape cases, told Channel 4 News Sir Stephen said this at a meeting with top officers.

She said: “It felt as if he was trying to minimise what the problem was, not taking it seriously.

“He used terms to describe – or a term to describe – what he thought the bulk of the rape complaints were, which was the term ‘regretful sex’.”

Met Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said: “Rape is a horrific offence that has a devastating and lasting impact. The comments included in the Operation Soteria Bluestone report are wholly unacceptable.

“Having been made aware of an allegation that the comments were made by a senior Metropolitan Police officer, we have referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”

Findings from Operation Soteria declared some officers “displayed a culture of disbelieving victims”.

In a statement to Channel 4 News, Sir Stephen, a former chief constable of Police Scotland, said: “I have dedicated over four decades of public service to protecting the public from predatory offenders.

“I categorically deny using the phrase ‘regretful sex’.

“These are not words I have ever used in relation to rape or sexual assault and the reason I am so certain that I did not say this is because I simply do not believe it; I find the phrase abhorrent.

“I find this characterisation of me to be deeply upsetting, and colleagues who know me know how untrue it is.”

He also “wholeheartedly” welcomes the investigation.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Rape and sexual offences are among the most traumatic of crimes, and it is vital that victims know they will be taken seriously and their allegations investigated thoroughly.

“Now it has been referred to the IOPC, the Home Secretary has agreed with National Police Chiefs’ Council chair Martin Hewitt that Sir Stephen House steps back from the review into the productivity of policing.”

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