News | Press Release

21 March 2024

Remove the Rot: Refuge hands in petition calling for police reform

  • A year after the release of the Baroness Casey Review, Refuge hands in petition with 48,580 signatures to the Home Secretary, as part of their Remove the Rot campaign, calling for the immediate suspension of all police officers and staff accused of VAWG.

  • Mandatory and consistent suspension is essential to rebuilding trust between women and police, as confidence reaches an all-time low.

Refuge, England’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse support, have delivered more than 48,000 petition signatures to Number 10 Downing Street today, on the year anniversary of the Baroness Casey Review launch. The petition, which is part of the charity’s Remove the Rot campaign, calls for the mandatory suspension of all police officers and police staff accused of violence against women and girls, pending the outcome of an investigation.

As it stands, there is currently no obligation for police forces to suspend officers or staff who are being investigated for allegations of violence against women and girls. In fact, current guidance states that officers will not be suspended unless suspension from duty is essential in the interested of an effective investigation or in the public interests. While Refuge would argue that suspension in any case involving VAWG would be in the public interest, data would show that this view is not shared by police forces across the country.

Last year, Refuge collected data through a Freedom of Information request, which showed that between 1st May 2022 and 1 May 2023, there were 1,124 cases of VAWG-related misconducted or gross misconduct across the 26 police forces in England and Wales who responded, but on average only 24% of police officers and staff accused were suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

It is deeply concerning that such a higher number of police officers and staff are able to stay in their roles as they will continue to have access to tools of abuse, despite being under investigation. VAWG is about control, coercion, and power, and being in the police only increases this for perpetrators. This is especially true for those who are promoted, while under investigation, which Metropolitan Police Chief, Sir Mark Rowley, disturbingly said was allowed in a recently leaked internal memo.

At Refuge, we know that women’s trust in the police is at an all-time low, with only 1 in 5 domestic abuse survivors reporting abuse to the police. This is not surprising, given that for years now, we have seen headline after headline outlining atrocious crimes against women and girls at the hands of police officers and staff abusing their power, alongside reports such as the Baroness Casey Review, and The Angiolini inquiry, that highlight the culture of deep-rooted misogyny within police forces across the country.

We’ve heard Government repeatedly say that women and girls is a policing priority for over a year now, but Refuge questions how this can be the case when perpetrators of VAWG are allowed to stay in positions of power, while under investigation.

In a recent survey released by Refuge, obtained through YouGov, 59% of women said that their trust in the police would increase if a policy of immediate suspension from duty for police officer and staff accused of violence against women and girls was introduced. This, combined with the 48,000+ signatures on this petition, show the strong support for mandatory suspension within the police.

While immediate and consistent suspension of police officers and staff will not magically restore women’s trust and confidence in the police, it will help. Women need to be confident that when they are reporting abuse to the police, they are not speaking to a perpetrator themselves, and that their reports will be taken seriously.

We urge the Government to respond to this petition immediately by implementing the mandatory suspension of all police officers and staff accused of VAWG related misconduct, pending the outcome of investigation, immediately. We have requested a meeting with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister to discuss our policy asks around policing and are campaigning for this change to be made in the Criminal Justice Bill currently going through the House of Commons. This implementation must come with a consistent suspension policy, to avoid patchy suspension provisions that vary between forces. It is only once mandatory and consistent suspension is adopted that women and girls can start to rebuild trust and confidence in the police.

Abigail Ampofo, Interim CEO of Refuge, said:  

“I would like to thank every person who has signed and shared this petition, helping us get to an incredible number of signatures. It is amazing to see such a large number of people coming together, to hold police forces accountable for the people in their ranks and improve protections for the women and girls they are supposed to protect.

Over the last few years, there has been headline after headlines about heinous abuse against women and girls, perpetrated by people within the police. We’ve heard accounts of police officers abusing their power to commit atrocities, often with impunity for long periods of time, and perpetrators being involved with active domestic abuse investigations.

It is deeply shocking to Refuge that it is not currently mandatory for police officers and staff to be suspended, pending investigation, when they are accused of violence against women and girls. In any other profession, suspension would be the norm, as would frequent vetting, so what makes policing any different? As an institution who are supposed to protect the public from harm, the police should be held to the highest of standards and any allegations of abuse against officers should be treated with the utmost seriou

At Refuge, it is our hope that this petition, signed by so many people, will show the Home Secretary that enough is enough. It is time that we remove the rot from police forces across the country and start restoring women’s trust in policing to protect them.”

Hollie Woolford, a survivor of domestic abuse, said: 

“I am happy to be here today, supporting Refuge as they hand in this petition, calling for the mandatory suspension of all potential abusers within the police. It is amazing that over 48,000 people have signed this petition to root out the bad apples in police ranks and make policing more accountable.

I know from experience that reporting abuse to the police takes a lot of courage, and that it can be a very scary process. It is important that survivors can feel safe when doing so. As it stands, women and girls cannot have confidence that when they are reporting abuse to police, they are not dealing with a suspected perpetrator themselves. For us to feel safe reporting, we need to know that the police are taking reports of abuse within their own ranks seriously, and that those suspected are not able to continue working and come into contact with survivors.”



Notes to Editor:

  • Information on YouGov data, released by Refuge can be found here:
  • FOI data and more information on what mandatory suspension must looks like can be found here: