12 Oct 2021

Exclusive: Over 20 indecent exposure reports every day last year, police data shows

North of England Correspondent

More than 45,000 reports of indecent exposure have been recorded in England and Wales in the past six years, with over 20 cases a day in 2020, according to exclusive figures obtained by Channel 4 News.

Lisa Squire, whose daughter Libby was raped and killed by Pawel Relowicz, fears her daughter was flashed weeks before she was murderedThe number of flashing cases recorded by police have increased by nearly a third in five years, from 5,822 in 2015 to 7,629 in 2020, despite lockdown restrictions imposed for much of last year, figures released under freedom of information (FOI) laws show.

The murders of Sarah Everard and Libby Squire by men accused of past sex offences has sparked calls for police forces to take more action on reports of indecent exposure and other non-contact sex offences.

Libby’s mother Lisa Squire told Channel 4 News her daughter said someone exposed themselves to her in the weeks before she was killed, but the 21-year-old student didn’t report it to the police at the time.

She added: “It haunts me now.”

The majority of incidents go unreported, with one Office for National Statistics crime survey suggesting there could have been more than 100,000 cases last year.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said the police take reports of indecent exposure “very seriously” and they “investigate and prosecute where there is evidence to do so.”

Prosecutions halved

Of the 44 police forces in England and Wales that Channel 4 News submitted FOI requests to, 37 responded and the figures show that some forces have had more success in getting cases of indecent exposure heard in court.

In Cheshire, 17% of reported incidents since 2015 went to court and in South Wales it was 15% but in Greater Manchester it was 8% while in Kent it’s 7%.

Across the UK, the number of prosecutions for indecent exposure has halved from 2014 to 2020.

Student Libby Squire was snatched off the streets of Hull and raped and murdered in 2019.

Pawel Relowicz, 26, was convicted of murder and rape last year. He was also convicted of several earlier offences which included performing sex acts in public and stealing underwear from women’s homes.

Libby’s mother Lisa told Channel 4 News someone exposed themselves to her daughter in the weeks before she was killed.

Lisa said: “That was the time he (Relowicz) was offending and it could have been him.”

She added: “I think a lot of women would think what’s the point in reporting it, it’s not going to be taken seriously and nobody was hurt. But it’s not whether you’re hurt, it’s whether they escalate and the next person might be hurt.”

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “We understand that incidents of indecent exposure can be extremely distressing for those who witness them.

“Police will take these reports very seriously, investigate, and prosecute where there is evidence to do so.

“If anyone has been a victim of indecent exposure they should report it to police as soon as it happens.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Indecent exposure is a sickening crime and we expect the police to investigate all reports thoroughly and charge offenders where appropriate.

“Through our Safer Streets Fund, we are giving forces across the country the tools and resources they need to better understand and address the risk posed by these kinds of perpetrators and intervene to stop any further criminality as well as invest in preventative measures to ensure women and girls feel safe in public spaces.

“We have also appointed the first ever dedicated national police officer for reducing and preventing crimes against women and girls. DCC Maggie Blyth, accountable to the public through the Home Secretary, will ensure all forces take the necessary action to treat reports of these crimes with the care and sensitivity they deserve.”