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Sex crimes in pharmacies soar 55%

Reports of indecent exposure, stalking and upskirting in UK pharmacies are rising sharply, an investigation into the last three years of police data by C+D reveals. 

The number of sexual offences in pharmacies reported to UK police forces rose 55% in one year, a C+D investigation can reveal.

C+D asked 45 UK police forces for the number and type of sexual offences that occurred at pharmacies between November 2020 and October 2023.

Responses were given by 27 forces, or 60% of them. 

The data revealed a 55% increase in three years, as the number of incidents in pharmacies increased from 22 in 2021 and 2022 to 34 in 2023.

Of the 78 incidents, only six resulted in charges.

National Association of Women Pharmacists (NAWP) president Ayah Abbass told C+D that the data was “shocking”. 

“It is quite horrifying to think someone might be going through something like this in pharmacies,” she added.

Abbass was keen to stress that the increase in reports could reflect an uptake in reporting, not incidents, but said victims “actually reporting” incidents was “so important” and gave her “a little bit of comfort”.

Read more: Pharmacy worker felt 'horrible' after being flashed by patient

She added that victims are “not the ones who will get into trouble”.

“It’s so important to report it,” she told C+D. “Data like this is so important because it opens people's eyes to the fact that this is happening in the workplace.”

  

Pharmacy’s flashing problem 

 

C+D was provided with a breakdown of the types of sexual crimes reported by 20 police forces, including 18 reports of “harassment”, 12 of “sexual assault on a female'” and 10 of “sexual assault”. 

Stalking was reported to police forces three times, and police received two reports of “upskirting” –  defined as a “someone taking a picture under another person’s clothing without their knowledge” by the Ministry of Justice. 

Read more: Locum handed three-month suspension for showing colleague picture of penis

But C+D’s analysis found that most common specific sexual crime occurring in pharmacy over the period was indecent exposure. 

 

'Flashing' was reported to police forces 15 times over three years. 

 

 

In September, C+D reported that Northumbria Police were investigating reports of a man who asked for a private consultation with pharmacy staff before exposing himself on three separate occasions, leaving staff feeling “betrayed”.

It came the same week that a new “vision” report for the sector recommended that pharmacies be commissioned to deliver five more essential services within the next five years, which would see pharmacists spending more time one-on-one with patients.

Read more: Indecent exposure: Police investigating reports of serial pharmacy flasher

And last week (March 28) the government revealed that Pharmacy technicians will “potentially” also be able to provide private consultations under Pharmacy First.

 

Sexual crimes mapped

 

A total of 18 police forces told C+D that they had received reports of sexual crimes in a pharmacy in the time period. 

Essex Police received the highest number of reports over three years with 23 reports. 

An spokesperson for Essex police said “victims of sexual offending feel confident in reporting matters to us”.     

They added that in May 2023, the force was ranked first of the UK for its “sexual offences conviction rate, spanning the 12 months until May 2023”.

Northumbria Police and West Midlands Police each received eight reports in the time frame, making them the joint second most likely forces for reports to be made to. 

A Northumbria Police spokesperson told C+D that the figures are generally still low, and its force area is very large in comparison to many others.

It said that “as a force, we take all reports of sexual offences extremely seriously and take a proactive approach to dealing with these cases” and have “specially trained officers…to identify and catch sexual perpetrators”.

“We want to be absolutely clear that anyone who does come forward will be listened to and supported, and we will work relentlessly to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice,” it added. 

C+ D approached West Midlands Police for comment. 

Zoom in on the interactive map to compare the eighteen forces. 

 

 

 

“Worrying to see an increase”

 

“It is worrying to see an increase in the number of incidents reported at pharmacies identified by C+D’s investigation,” said Dionne Spence, CEO and deputy registrar at the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

She stressed “it is important that people are supported to promptly report incidents of this nature so that robust action can be quickly taken, including by law enforcement”.

She added that the GPhC’s guidance shows that “acts of sexual misconduct are so serious that they will often be incompatible with continued registration as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician”.

Reacting to C+D’s data, director of legal at Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said “any act of abuse against pharmacy staff members, including sexual assault, is unacceptable”.

And NHS England (NHSE) said “any form of sexual harassment, abuse or violence...will not be tolerated in the NHS”.

It added that NHSE is “taking action by rolling out better reporting mechanisms, training and support as part of the NHS Sexual Safety Charter”.

 

If you’ve been affected by sexual harassment in the work place, reach out to NAWP , Pharmacist Support or PASS in Northern Ireland for help. Find free materials to raise awareness of a zero tolerance of abuse policies in pharmacies here

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