Devon and Cornwall Police Chief suspended after “serious allegations of sexual offences”
Chief Constable Will Kerr, has been suspended and is undergoing an investigation by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, reports Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Speka.
Content Warning: Mentions of sexual assault.
Chief Constable Will Kerr has been suspended after eight months as the Devon and Cornwall police Chief for “serious allegations of sexual offences”. The matter has been allocated to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for further investigation. Kerr reportedly “strenuously denied” any wrongdoings.
It is said that the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, knew about these allegations since at least April, yet did not suspend Kerr.
“This raises questions about whether the system of police governance is really working.”Lord Paddick
Lord Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police has stated “This raises questions about whether the system of police governance is really working.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) began investigating the allegations earlier this year. In June, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland used its legal powers to take over the criminal inquiry. In doing so, it has decided to investigate whether PSNI mishandled the allegations of sexual assault when they were first made in 2016, reports the Guardian.
Before the Ombudsman took over the investigation, rulings were made by judges that did not allow news organizations to report on allegations of sexual assault on a serving constable.
Kerr served 27 years as assistant chief constable in Northern Ireland where he lead on serious crime and counter-terrorism.
Devon Live reports that upon taking his position with the Devon and Cornwall police last year, he vowed to tackle violence against women saying that “Violence against women and girls has been talked about far more openly. We have a real responsibility as the local police force not only to tackle the violence but to prevent as much of it as we possibly can and make public spaces feel safe for women and girls to go out and go about their normal daily lives without abuse, attempts to approach them, or catcalling. We all have a collective responsibility, but policing, in particular, has a particular responsibility to tackle this issue as robustly as it should be.”
Kerr has not been arrested. In a response denying the alleged wrongdoings, he states “I recognise and respect the fact that accountability and due process are vital to any investigation, regardless of rank or position. I will continue to cooperate with any investigation. I hope that all matters will be expedited so that they will be concluded without delay.”
Jim Colwell has now stepped into the role of acting chief constable of Devon and Cornwall. He publicly comments “I am keen to reassure the public that we will maintain our focus on delivering the best possible service to our communities.” He also says “Public trust and confidence are at the very heart of our ability to police effectively and we are incredibly proud that in Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly we have the support of our communities.”