Just one in ten voyeurism and indecent exposure reports in London resulted in charge, Met Police admit

Sarah Everard’s killer could have been stopped if previous flashing crimes were properly pursued (PA Media)
Sarah Everard’s killer could have been stopped if previous flashing crimes were properly pursued (PA Media)

Only one in ten reports of indecent exposure or voyeurism in London ended with a prosecution last year despite evidence that the killer of Sarah Everard could have been stopped if previous flashing crimes had been tackled, MPs were told on Wednesday.

Met Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe admitted the charge rate of 10.9 per cent for the 1,566 indecent exposure or voyeurism crimes recorded by her force was not high enough.

Her admission at a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on “non-contact” sexual offences – which include upskirting and cyber-flashing as well as indecent exposure and voyeurism – at which police chiefs were being questioned on the law enforcement response to such crimes.

Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council told the MPs that there was an “epidemic” of crimes of violence against women and girls ranging with around one in ten females suffering such crimes during their lifetime.

She said the gravity of the problem was recognised by police and now being tackled with the same intensity as terrorism in the wake of “awful cases” that had exposed the consequences of police inaction.

The kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard by the serving police officer Wayne Couzens was among the cases to which she was referring.

Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe (PA)
Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe (PA)

A report into the crime earlier this year by Lady Elish Angiolini revealed that a succession of previous indecent exposure offences committed by Couzens had not been adequately pursued by police, leaving him free to remain in the Met and use his police position to abduct and murder Ms Everard.

Met Assistant Commissioner Ms Rolfe said the force was now prioritising the pursuit of those committing violence against women with figures showing a 244 per cent increase in rape reports being received by the force and 11 per cent of emergency calls to police being about victims of domestic abuse. She said 30 per cent of violence with injury involved domestic abuse.

Another senior Met officer, Commander Ben Russell told the hearing that the Met was “throwing everything” at the pursuit of those it judged to the most dangerous predatory men under its “V100” scheme for tackling violence against women.

Today’s hearing was organised by the Home Affairs Select Committee in response to what it said was the increased focus on crimes such as indecent exposure, voyeurism, upskirting and cyber-flashing after “revelations that the murders of Libby Squire and Sarah Everard were committed by men with a history of committing acts of indecent exposure and/or voyeurism.

The committee added that the number of incidents recorded by police continues to rise year on year, with 12,887 cases of exposure and voyeurism in 2022/23, although it pointed out that there had been only 623 convictions for such offences during the year, down significantly on the total of 811 in 2016/17.