Challenges of Reporting Domestic Violence When Your Abuser Is a Police Officer, & Getting Justice
Date: September 3, 2020
26 August 2020 – The man with his hands around Jodie’s throat had a look of crazed determination as he began to tighten his grip.
Escape was impossible. Towering almost a foot above her 5 ft 4 in frame, he was strong and muscular, weighing almost 19 st compared to her eight.
‘He’s going to kill me,’ she thought, gasping for breath.
But Jodie, then 28, was trapped beyond just his physical grasp.
A decade older, her boyfriend PC Clarke Joslyn had almost 20 years’ service under his belt with Gwent Police, whereas she had been a trainee officer for less than a year. He had friends in high places, so he would taunt, and no one would ever believe her. Jodie, then 28 and herself a police officer, was attacked by her boyfriend, PC Clarke Joslyn of Gwent Police
‘I felt so alone,’ Jodie tells me. ‘When he finally let go of my throat, he made me feel like it was my fault and, if I reported him, nothing would happen.’
This warning turned out, horrifyingly, to be true.
Even though Jodie, now 36, finally found the courage to report Clarke’s abuse during their nine-month relationship, it would take seven years for him to be held to account.
It was not until last year that a disciplinary hearing found Clarke, now 46, guilty of gross misconduct on the evidence of six women, including Jodie.
He resigned two days into the hearing, which found he had remained ‘highly thought of’ within the force, even though his ‘physically abusive behaviour towards women’ would appall the public.
Across 29 pages, a long list of allegations of violence and control were made against him, many found proven including having choked Jodie and threatened to ‘end her’.
The panel said it would have recommended dismissal if he had not already resigned.
Now Jodie, still a serving officer, and another woman abused by Clarke are taking Gwent Police to court for the way it handled their complaints.
However, they believe the problem is far bigger than one force and have joined with 17 other women from across the country to form a super-complaint to change the way domestic abuse by police officers is investigated.
The complaint, which was submitted to HM Chief Inspector of Constabularies by the Centre For Women’s Justice (CWJ), cites the cases of 19 women from 15 force areas who they say have been the victims of abuse, violence, stalking and rape — women left ‘doubly powerless’ as their police officer abusers were too often protected because of their positions.
Instead of reports being handled in-house, as they mostly are now, campaigners believe allegations need to be investigated by an outside police force, if not an entirely independent body.
After all, how impartial and robust can an investigation be when it is carried out by an officer’s colleagues, many of whom will be friends?
And let us not forget victims of domestic abuse, three quarters of whom are women, are often deeply afraid of the consequences of reporting their partner.
How much greater this fear must be when an abuser is a police officer and part of the system supposed to protect them.
‘There are weaknesses in the system,’ says CWJ director Harriet Wistrich. ‘Sometimes there’s corruption and a cover-up.
‘Sometimes there’s victimisation and a failure to progress. Domestic violence complaints shouldn’t just fall into the hands of friends and colleagues — the process needs to be independent and robust.’
A Freedom of Information request showed in the three years before 2018 there were almost 700 reports of domestic violence involving police officers.
But the data, provided by 37 of the country’s 48 forces, also revealed how police accused of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than the general public — 3.9 per cent compared with 6.2 per cent.
It is no wonder so few feel able to report domestic violence, especially when it has been meted out by someone entrusted with upholding the law.
As Lucy Hadley, campaigns and public affairs manager at Women’s Aid, says: ‘Only one in five victims of domestic abuse report it to police and for those whose partners are police officers, there’s a risk of being subjected to further abuse.’
Jodie remembers how initially charmed she was by Clarke before things took a sinister turn.
The couple met at work when Jodie was under his supervision. He sent her a friend request on Facebook and, a week later, they went on a date to a local pub.
Soon his behaviour started to change. ‘It was little things at first,’ Jodie says. ‘If I said I was going out with friends, he’d say, ‘Oh don’t go, I’m cooking you a meal’.
‘He became increasingly controlling. He’d threaten to follow me if I went out. He would look through my phone and Facebook account. He started questioning me about seeing my family, saying he didn’t want me to visit my dad more than once a week and he wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet unless I left the door open.’
Things continued to escalate and, increasingly isolated from friends and family, Jodie started to believe she was at fault.
‘He’d grab me in choke holds and say he was going to make me unconscious. He’d flash knives to scare me and, once, when I tried to leave, he grabbed my arms hard enough to leave bruises through a thick winter coat. I doubted myself. I felt like I was going crazy. But slowly I began to realise it wasn’t me.’
When Jodie finally ended things, Clarke began to harass her. ‘It was like something from a film, he was literally everywhere. I was absolutely terrified. He was taking his police radio home to monitor me, checking my emails, texting me, turning up at my house, sending me gifts. He said it would be over when he decided. He would send me really creepy biblical quotes in messages, saying ‘be sure for your sins will find you out’.’
Things came to a head in February 2012 when she told her sergeants and was referred to the Professional Standards Department (PSD) which investigates complaints against officers.
Clarke was given a verbal harassment warning, but Jodie knew he wouldn’t take it seriously as it was given by a friend.
‘The next day he contacted me again, so I gave another statement. This time he was given a written warning. He broke it again by sending me an email, so I gave another statement.’
No criminal charges were brought and Jodie heard nothing until two years later, in November 2014, when the PSD contacted her to say they’d received a similar complaint and would be re-examining her evidence.
Astonishingly, it would take five years until the case went to a misconduct hearing.
‘Clarke didn’t contact me again, but I later learned this was because he’d started a relationship with another young recruit.’
Sarah was just 23 when she embarked on a relationship with Clarke in 2012 — four months after he breached the harassment order against Jodie.
‘If that had been dealt with properly,’ Sarah, now 31, tells me, ‘none of this would have happened. He should never have been left in a position of seniority over me following Jodie’s complaint.’
Similarly, his behaviour started off amiably enough but he quickly became jealous and possessive before turning violent — complaints upheld by the misconduct hearing.
‘Once he was cooking dinner and I asked if I had time to have a bath and he said yes. I was drying my hair and he came upstairs with a knife and pinned me against the wall. He said you’ve no respect, your food is going cold. He just lost it. Another night he pinned me to the bed because I said I wanted to leave him. His hand was across my face, my arm was pinned down. I was screaming at him to stop. I thought “he’s going to kill me. He threw me across the bed and I played dead. My face was bruised the next day.’
Like so many victims of domestic abuse, Sarah lost her confidence and felt she was to blame during the two years of their relationship.
‘He said if I told anyone, no one would believe me and, let’s be honest, nobody did. I felt there was no escape. He manipulated me through fear and violence. He had such power. He would say things such as, ‘I will end your career’.’
In September 2014, Sarah, who is no longer a police officer, reported Clarke but says the subsequent investigation was a ‘sham’.
‘It was carried out by his friends and people would whisper “liar” when I walked past them at work. The whole boys’ club closed ranks to protect him.’
A spokesman for Gwent Police says it would be inappropriate to comment because of ongoing legal proceedings, but adds: ‘We expect all of our officers and staff to act in accordance with the Code of Ethics and the Standards of Professional Behaviour at all times.
‘It is right that anyone who does not adhere to these standards is held accountable and the appropriate action is taken.’
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, says: ‘All forces have a dedicated team which investigates complaints against officers. These departments work to strict guidelines, run confidential reporting phone lines for both the public and colleagues to raise concerns and are regularly independently inspected.’
Former Cleveland Police Officer Wayne Scott, 42, was jailed for 19 years in 2013 for a catalogue of rapes on two women, as well as a number of sexual assaults. A subsequent independent report in 2015 found the force had a ‘prevailing culture of indifference’ towards his ‘deviant’ behaviour, with colleagues failing to act on 16 ‘red flag’ warning signs which showed he was dangerous. One of Scott’s victims was his wife, Nicola Richardson, who endured seven years of extreme sexual violence at his hands.
It was not until Nicola, 39, a former police officer herself, came forward and reported Scott that he was finally charged and prosecuted.
Today, Nicola has bravely waived her right to anonymity to fight for changes to the way domestic violence cases are reported. ‘I was absolutely under his control,’ she tells me.
‘He would use my knowledge of the law and how difficult rape convictions are, particularly between husband and wife. He would say if I told anyone, he would just get away with it and I would be in terrible danger and lose my children.’
Nicola was horrified to later learn of the other complaints against her husband and recalls how badly a previous attempt to report him had ended in 2011.
‘He’d hurt me and I told my friend who was married to a police officer, who would be duty-bound to report it. Nothing happened for months then I received a phone call from my inspector saying to come in. They knew Wayne was stood beside me. I was terrified, but they didn’t seem to care.’
Nicola says this was a missed chance to end Scott’s reign of terror. ‘When you’re a victim of domestic violence there are these rare, precious moments when you feel strong enough to tell someone and they need to be seized.’
Like the others, Nicola wants to see complaints investigated by an outside body. ‘Wayne had been a PC longer than me and I felt like he was one of the lads.
‘It was people I knew that arrested him and questioned me. It was embarrassing and I felt like my life was spread out for everyone to see.’
Nicola, who is now training to be a dental nurse, says she regrets not reporting Scott sooner but, as brutalised as she was, knows it would have been hard to do so.
‘When I went to the police, his behaviour had been escalating and he had threatened to kill me and our young children. I believed him. He broke me down every way a person can be broken. I was a shadow of myself. It didn’t end that day I reported him and has had a ripple effect on my life. We need to remember domestic violence is going on all around us in all walks of life. So many people are living in hell in their own home and we need to make it as easy as possible for them to speak out, particularly when the person abusing them is a police officer. Victims need to have faith their complaints will be taken seriously.’