Operation Sapphire: spectacularly missing the point

Operation Sapphire, the specialist unit at the Met designed to cover up prosecute sexual offenses, has been dogged with controversy this year, since it emerged that officers were systematically covering up sex crimes and refusing to investigate, while sexual predators within the force have targetted vulnerable women who have approached the police for support.  Today they released a new strategy, and boy, does it miss the point.

Firstly, they are going to use licensing laws to shut down pubs and clubs which generate a high level of complaints about sexual assault and rape.  Now there is definitely complicity in entertainment venues in rape culture – of that there is no denial, however there are also known places where sexual assault is the norm.  The whole point of lapdancing clubs is for sexual harassment and implicit sexual violence to take place, and those who are employed within such clubs talk openly of the sexual assault that they are forced to ensure as part of their conditions of employment.  If you are going to start shutting down places that generate sexual violence, a damn good place to start would be those which have sexual objectification, harassment and violence as their unique selling point.

Secondly, they are going to target known perpetrators of sexual offences for other crimes using “Al Capone tactics”.  Eh?  Why?  Why not actually convict them for the crimes that they have committed rather than using dubious policing techniques.  The reason for this I suspect is the known difficulty of obtaining convictions for sexual offences due to the widespread rape culture which sees rapists routinely walk, as the permanent legal state of consent that women exist under cannot be proven to be have been rescinded.  A refusal to tackle head on the complicity of the Met, and Operation Sapphire in particular, in covering up sexual offenses leaves the culture where women are routinely disbelieved and even gaoled for false allegations when they report sexual assault, unchallenged.  Instead a narrative of victimhood will arise among the men convicted for minor offences using dubious tactics, so that when a rape allegation is pursued, it will be seen in the light of the ongoing police harassment, rather than as part of a pattern of sexual offences committed.

Thirdly, they are going to tackle “vulnerability”.

“80% of our victims have one form of vulnerability or another, a permanent or temporary vulnerability through drink, drugs, mental health, age. So there are things that we can do to prevent the offence happening in the first place.”

Mick Duthrie, Head of Operation Sapphire

This is stunning.  After all the scandal that has hit Operation Sapphire, they are still victim blaming.  Neither drink nor drug use are the cause of rape and as for the suggestion that mental health issues and age are to blame, what exactly are they going to do – magically cure anyone with a mental health problem or an age deficiency?  Rape is caused by perpetrators and it is the job of the police and the sexual offences unit in particular to prevent potential perpetrators committing offences and prosecute them when their offences are reported to them.

Of course there are things that they can do to stop the offence happening in the first place, for a start they can make sure that a clear message goes out from the police that they will treat all offenses as seriously as one another, regardless of the “vulnerability” of the victim; that they will pursue reports of sexual offences as seriously if not more so than other crimes rather than depreciating them in favour of property crimes and that they will put their weight behind measures which end the commercialisation of sex which contributes to the objectification and harassment of women and feeds into a culture which sees women as fair game.

None of this is happening.  Operation Sapphire has its head in the sand and its reputation as the unit of the Met specially charged with the coverup of sexual offenses stands unchallenged, as rape continues to be well policed.

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