The UK police watchdog has announced that eight Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers involved in the Stephen Port case are being investigated for gross misconduct.
On Thursday (16 November) the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said the investigation is looking at five current and three former officers.
All eight are being investigated for gross misconduct for possible breaches of police professional standards relating variously to equality and diversity, duties and responsibilities, authority respect and courtesy, and honesty and integrity.
Between June 2014 and September 2015, Port killed Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25. Port was eventually arrested and given a life sentence in 2016.
“We will decide whether any officers should face disciplinary proceedings”
IOPC regional director Steve Noonan paid tribute to the families of the victims for their “considerable patience,” in getting to this position.
“Our re-investigation has been, and continues to be, thorough and detailed,” Noonan continued. “We recognise it has taken some time to reach this stage, but these are complex matters, involving multiple officers and four investigations into unexplained deaths and then the subsequent murder investigation into Port.”
Noonan went further to say: “Though we have found an indication that the behaviour of these eight individuals may have amounted to gross misconduct, this does not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings will automatically follow. Based on the evidence, at the conclusion of our investigation we will decide whether any officers should face disciplinary proceedings.”
In 2022, the IOPC announced it was reinvestigating the way the case was originally handled by the MPS. That followed new evidence coming to light from an inquest held in 2021, which concluded MPS failings “probably” contributed to the deaths of three of Port’s victims.
It also followed an investigation by the IOPC’s predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). That included five of the officers involved in the IOPC’s investigation announced on Thursday. Three of those are current officers.
The IPCC investigation, which concluded in August 2018, examined the conduct of officers, investigating 17. 16 of those offered written accounts when interviewed, said the IOPC on Thursday.
The IOPC said it had “thoroughly reviewed” the original investigation’s material, information from the 2021 inquest, and other relevant material. This also included Coroner’s reports from inquests held before the MPS launched a murder investigation.
Further lines of enquiry and witness interviews are ongoing. So far, 3,500 documents have been examined.
“Our thoughts are, as always, with their families and friends”
Responding to the IOPC’s announcement Commander Jon Savell of the MPS said they “fully support” the IOPC’s investigation. He called the deaths of the four me a tragedy and apologised for police failings.
Savell also mentioned that the MPS has improved investigations since the deaths of Port’s victims which is a continuing project. These improvements have come about through various reports and investigations as well as from community members.
Speaking at the 2023 Attitude Awards, Donna and Jenny Taylor, the sisters of Jack Taylor, pledged to keep fighting for justice.
The two sisters took a leading role in establishing connections between the deaths of the four men. All four men were found in or near the same graveyard in Barking. Their investigative work eventually encouraged the police to look at the links and arrest Port.
“We are also fighting for justice, and we are also fighting for change. This should never have happened, and this should never happen again to other families, people need to be treated as equals,” they said.
“At the end of the day, Stephen Port killed Jack and the other boys, but the police have blood on their hands”
Speaking to Attitude for the Awards issue Jenny Taylor went further. She said: “We won’t stop until we get the right result and that means people being held accountable.” They define accountability here as being serving officers – “the ones that helped Jack lose his life” – losing their jobs.
She continued: “It’s disgusting how they’re still in that job role. At the end of the day, Stephen Port killed Jack and the other boys, but the police have blood on their hands. They’ve played a part in people’s deaths because they could have stopped that.”
Donna Taylor added: “At the end of the day, Jack should still be here. An apology doesn’t cut it. We’ve lost somebody that we loved with all our hearts, and we’re never going to get him back.”
In April, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) concluded a case like this “could happen again.
That followed a damning review that found the MPS is riddled with “institutional racism, sexism, and homophobia.”
A petition to see officers involved in the Stephen Port case removed has neared its next target of 50,000 signatures.
Attitude has contacted the Taylors for comment.