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Stephen House to step away from productivity review after IOPC referral

The former deputy commissioner of the Met has been referred to the watchdog over alleged comments about rape.

Sir Stephen House will be stepping back from the review into the productivity of policing amid an allegation that he referred to the “bulk” of rape complaints as being “regretful sex”.

He denies the comments allegedly made to a Home Office adviser at a Scotland Yard meeting in January 2022 while he was Deputy Commissioner of the Met.

The force said the alleged comments are “wholly unacceptable”, and has referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Former Chief Constable of Kent, Alan Pughsley, is now set to temporarily lead the review "to ensure momentum is maintained". He had already been part of the national team working on it. 

The situation will be continually reviewed as the investigation progresses. 

Police Oracle understands that the review is set to look at effectiveness and productivity in policing - identifying barriers as well as the most efficient operating models. Technology and streamlining processes will also be looked at as well as the effects of the Uplift programme. 

Professor Betsy Stanko, an adviser appointed by the Home Office to conduct Operation Soteria told Channel 4 News Sir Stephen made the alleged comments at a meeting with top officers.

She said: “It felt as if he was trying to minimise what the problem was, not taking it seriously.

“He used terms to describe – or a term to describe – what he thought the bulk of the rape complaints were, which was the term ‘regretful sex’.”

Sir Stephen made a statement to Channel 4 News saying: “I have dedicated over four decades of public service to protecting the public from predatory offenders.

“I categorically deny using the phrase ‘regretful sex’.

“These are not words I have ever used in relation to rape or sexual assault and the reason I am so certain that I did not say this is because I simply do not believe it; I find the phrase abhorrent.

“I find this characterisation of me to be deeply upsetting, and colleagues who know me know how untrue it is.”

He also “wholeheartedly” welcomes the investigation.

Met Police Deputy Commissioner Dame Lynne Owens said: “Rape is a horrific offence that has a devastating and lasting impact. The comments included in the Operation Soteria Bluestone report are wholly unacceptable.

“We recognise that they risk further undermining the confidence of victims to come forward and that is deeply regrettable.

“Having been made aware of an allegation that the comments were made by a senior Metropolitan Police officer, we have referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Rape and sexual offences are among the most traumatic of crimes, and it is vital that victims know they will be taken seriously and their allegations investigated thoroughly.

“Now it has been referred to the IOPC, the Home Secretary has agreed with National Police Chiefs’ Council chair Martin Hewitt that Sir Stephen House steps back from the review into the productivity of policing.”

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