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The Met’s misogyny must be held to account

5th February 2022

By Kristina O’Connor

In 2011, I contacted the police after I was mugged by a group of men. While taking my statement, even though I was physically bruised and emotionally vulnerable, DCI James Mason made persistent and crude sexual advances towards me. Despite me telling him that this was inappropriate and unwanted, he continued to harass me over the following days with emails from his official police account.

Almost 10 years later I found the strength and courage to report him. In 2021, he was found guilty of eight counts of Gross Misconduct, but the Metropolitan Police let him keep his job.

After being harassed by DCI James Mason, I lost all trust in those who should have been there to protect me. There have been many times since when I’ve needed their help and have considered calling the police, but, because of this experience, I didn’t feel safe doing so.

It is my firm belief that what happened to me was not simply a one-off, nor simply down to one “bad ‘un” within the police force. I believe this is the real Met as it exists today. My experience is just one example of the deeply ingrained misogyny and discrimination that is endemic in the Met. The only thing that’s exceptional about my story is that you’re reading it now; that I’ve had the luck, support, perseverance and privilege to be given a platform to speak about it. 

In the last four years, 2,000 police officers have been accused of sexual misconduct, and that only includes reported cases. Of these, only a third of guilty officers were dismissed. When it comes to violent men, the Met police appears to harbour them and tolerate their views, giving them the authority and ability to perpetuate and maintain those views, while shielding them from sanctions and failing to protect the vulnerable individuals they encounter.

I have no doubt that DCI James Mason felt entitled and emboldened to harass me because he was in a job that enabled him to do as he pleased without consequence. From his conduct and his comments, it’s difficult to imagine this was a one-off: it seems clear to me that this was his regular way of doing things. The Met facilitates men like DCI James Mason and fosters an environment where their prejudice can thrive.

I do not feel like justice has been served for what happened to me and I certainly don’t feel that I can have confidence or faith in the police. I still feel (as do many women) like I am just as likely to be harmed by the police officer who responds to my call as I am by a stranger on the street. 

Beyond this, even in the tiny minority of cases like mine, where the perpetrator is brought before a panel, charged and convicted of misconduct, they are still protected, their jobs considered more important than my safety or my faith in the police. If what I have seen is the process by which the Met is held to account for its own crimes, it is woefully inadequate, and something needs to change now.

Even after the revelations this week around Dr Koshka Duff’s assault and the findings of the police watchdog, the Met still denies misogyny was a factor and says that they “do not believe there is a culture of misogyny in the Met”. 

By speaking out now I want to encourage more women to come forward about their negative experiences with the police. It’s difficult and takes courage, I know, but if enough women speak out, the Met won’t be able to dismiss them as ‘one-offs’. If enough women speak out, the issue must be acknowledged as an institutional one. If enough women speak out, we can effect real change. 

I believe that DCI James Mason used his position of power and authority as a police officer to abuse me, and that his role within the Met protected him from full accountability. Mine is not the only story like this. It is my opinion that this is an institutional problem that requires the Met to accept responsibility, immediately remove individuals like DCI James Mason from the force, and commit to a full and comprehensive programme of reform to ensure all women can once again look to the police for protection and safety. If they can’t or won’t do this, steps towards defunding and even abolishment seem like the only reasonable response.

Good Law Project is supporting Kristina’s case against the Metropolitan Police over its continuing failure to hold its officers to account and to compel the Met to set out concrete steps to address the misogyny that is endemic in the force.

If you have experienced sexual harassment by the Met Police you can contact our team at [email protected] using the subject line ‘Met Police.’

 


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