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'He should not have been a police officer': Criminal British cops

A graphic of a Police Officer in front of a Police height chart
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Most police officers in Britain are, of course, law-abiding types that take their positions very seriously. Some, however, really do not.

Following complaints or investigations, more than 90 police officers and staff were found guilty of crimes in 2022, including sexual offences, corruption and violence against the person. And that was just in one calendar year.

Over twelve months, a total of 589 complaints against police officers led to a finding of gross misconduct, with another 680 a finding of misconduct. However, just 500 complaints led to an officer's expulsion from the force (or would have if the officer had still been working for the force at the time).

Here we will explore some of the most serious, notorious and disturbing criminal coppers in the UK from down the years.

1. Wayne Couzens

The reprehensible actions of disgraced former Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens shook Britain to its core in 2021. He cruelly and viciously exploited his position to unjustly ‘arrest’ 33-year-old Sarah Everard, before kidnapping, raping and strangling her with his police-issued belt. He then partially burned her body and dumped her in a pond in Kent.

When news broke that Sarah’s murder was carried out by a serving police officer, the country was beyond appalled.

On sentencing, Lord Justice Fulford said: ‘I have not the slightest doubt that the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce the victim on a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this purpose.

‘There was significant planning and premeditation. The victim was abducted, there was the most serious sexual conduct, the defendant was responsible for significant mental and physical suffering which he inflicted on the victim before her death, and the defendant concealed and attempted to destroy Sarah Everard’s body.’

The judge then issued Couzens with a rare whole life order, meaning that the killer will die behind bars.

2. David Carrick

Despite many allegations and investigations, David Carrick was able to work as a Met police officer in London and carry out 85 serious sexual assaults and 48 rapes over the course of 17 years.

Disturbingly, Carrick was also a member of the armed parliamentary and diplomatic protection command unit at the same time as Wayne Couzens. meaning it was extremely likely that the pair knew each other.

According to police and prosecutors, Carrick used his position as a Met officer to gain the trust of his victims before attacking them and threatening to have their accusations against him dismissed.

The Met said that starting in 2001, when Carrick first cleared the force's screening process, it should have recognised the harm he presented to women. He was allocated a gun in 2009, and despite the allegations made against him, he cleared another round of screening in 2017.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley took responsibility on behalf of his force, saying: ‘We have failed. And I’m sorry. He should not have been a police officer.

‘We failed as investigators where we should have been more intrusive and joined the dots on this repeated misogyny over a couple of decades. And as leaders, our mindset should have been more determined to root out such a misogynist.’

3. Derek Ridgewell

A former policeman in Southern Rhodesia, Derek Ridgewell moved to the UK and joined the British Transport Police. At one point, as he later admitted, he ‘just went bent’.

Ridgewell was eventually arrested for conspiracy to rob. In the 1970s he stole £1m from various places (mostly mailbags), framing innocent people for the crimes to cover them up. He frequently targeted young black men, many of whom received quite lengthy prison sentences.

The BTP officer was eventually found guilty and imprisoned for seven years. He died in prison in 1982 aged just 37. Many people believe he was murdered. Ridgewell’s victims, set up for crimes they hadn’t committed, eventually saw their sentences overturned.

4. Dominic Kelly

It’s fair to say that Dominic Kelly led a pretty eventful life. Born in Croydon in 1917, he served in World War II in the Royal Corps of Signals. Before then he was a professional footballer who turned out for the likes of Newcastle United and Leeds United. After the war, he retired from the game due to ligament damage sustained while in the army.

In 1946 he joined Newcastle-Upon-Tyne City Police and played for Northumberland County Cricket Club in his spare time. Eleven years later, Kelly was sacked for theft. A few years after that he was jailed for embezzlement, a crime he’d committed while a serving police officer.

In 1969, no longer a copper, he found work down south as a hotel porter. During his short employment there, he burned the place down for some unascertained reason. Tragically, a chambermaid was trapped in the fire and died. He was imprisoned for five years for manslaughter.