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Women accusing policemen partners of domestic abuse say Devon and Cornwall force failed to investigate them properly

Seven women have accused police of "systemic failures" in their investigations into alleged domestic abuse by serving officers.

The women have reported a range of abuse by partners who had been police officers - including rape, physical and mental abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, harassment and stalking.

But they say Devon and Cornwall Police failed to take "basic investigative steps" and each separately approached the Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ), who have launched legal action against the force.

In one case, the CWJ claims police even treated a victim as a potential offender "on the basis of counter-allegations raised by her perpetrator" that were later found to be false.

"I have gone from trusting the police to no longer being able to trust them or others," said a woman referred to as Samantha, who is also involved in the claim.

"If I had to start over, I would never report to the police as the process and their handling was just as bad as the abuser and the abuse prior to reporting.

"I want to have my voice heard so others don't have to endure what I have and still go through."

The group says other failings include appointing investigators who were connected to the accused officers and failing to gather statements from potential witnesses.

They accuse the force of a "wholesale failure" to update the women, some of whom "remain in the dark as to what, if any, investigation has been conducted".

'Terrifying experience'

Another of the women involved in the claim, referred to as Lizzie, said she has lost all faith in the police force.

"It's quite a terrifying experience knowing that every single officer I have dealt with over the years will prioritise protecting a fellow officer rather than investigating a report of abuse," she added.

Some of the accused officers remain in the force, CWJ solicitor Debaleena Dasgupta said, including in roles meant to address violence against women and girls.

The police force says it has referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

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Assistant Chief Constable Jim Pearce said: "Devon and Cornwall Police has been made aware of information received on 2 February 2024 which requires careful consideration and appropriate review."

He added: "The IOPC has asked for further work to be progressed by the force before they can accept and assess a referral, but we remain in consultation with them in providing the required information.

"It would be both inappropriate and premature to comment further at this stage."

An IOPC spokesperson confirmed the organisation is "in liaison" with the force "to assist them in progressing a valid referral to us regarding these serious matters".