Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
Officers convicted of misconduct over handling of child abuse investigation
Two Essex Police officers have been convicted of falsifying a document purportedly from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), manipulating CPS advice on their systems and destroying exhibits during child abuse investigations.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, a serving Essex Police detective constable (DC) and a former DC were convicted each of misconduct in public office, following a large scale investigationdirected, and controlled, by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
DC Sharon Patterson, 49, and former DC Lee Pollard, 47, previously worked in the North Child Abuse Investigation Team (NCAIT) and denied the charges against them.
IOPC Regional Director, Sarah Green said: “It is inexcusable for any officer to deliberately fail in their duties, it feels particularly reprehensible for officers attached to a child abuse investigationteam to behave in a manner that risked allowing child abusers to go unpunished.
“Survivors of child abuse must have confidence in their police force and feel secure that their allegations will be properly and thoroughly handled.”
DC Patterson was convicted of falsifying a document relating to CPS charging advice. She was cleared of allegations she misled senior officers about evidence provided by a witness.
Former DC Pollard was convicted of destroying evidence, in the form of indecent images, and falsifying information on Essex Police systems relating to CPS charging advice.
The IOPC investigation into NCAIT
The IOPC launched its investigation in 2014 following a referral from Essex Police after an internal review identified potential failings within the NCAIT.
We investigated how the NCAIT conducted 55 investigations into allegations of child abuse reported between 2011 and 2014. The investigation was carried out by Norfolk and Suffolk’s joint professional standards department under our direction and control.
As part of the investigation more than 160 witnesses gave statements, 25 officers were interviewed, and more than 500 exhibits were catalogued. Every effort was made to notify the survivors involved in each of these cases.
In addition to the criminal trial of Patterson and Pollard a third DC was dismissed in October 2018 for breaching the standards of professional behaviour.
DC Peter Wood was dismissed after he failed to progress three investigations of child abuse honestly and in a timely fashion and deliberately manipulated the process to close cases with no further action.
As part of our investigation into NCAIT, 25 serving Essex officers were issued with notices and five retired officers were informed their actions were under investigation. The 30 officers ranged in rank from DC to detective chief inspector.
Of the 30 officers:
- Eight received management action by Essex Police;
- Seven had no case to answer;
- five former officers had a case to answer for misconduct, but faced no further action as they were no longer serving with Essex Police;
- three cases were proven at a misconduct hearing but received no action;
- two officers received no action as they had left the force;
- two cases were not proven following misconduct meetings;
- two officers, DC Pollard and former DC Patterson, were convicted at trial; and
- one officer, DC Wood, was dismissed.
Through our thorough analysis of how the NCAIT operated, we identified a number areas of learning for Essex Police.
We found that historically, officers were taking a narrow approach to safeguarding. For example, in one investigation, safeguarding was considered to be fulfilled as the suspect no longer had access to the victim rather than officers considering what access the suspect had to other children.
As a result we suggested the force would benefit from the introduction of a multi-agency safeguarding hub - the benefits of which have been proven in other forces.
Areas where we recommended improvements include:
- compulsory counselling;
- robust review procedures;
- rigorous documentation recording process;
- appropriate staffing levels; and
- adherence to appropriate policies and procedures including the Victims Charter as supervisors were able to adjust the frequency with which a victim or witness was contacted. We encouraged Essex Police to check their policies and processes to ensure they comply with national policy.
IOPC Regional Director, Sarah Green, added: “This has been a complex and in-depth investigation into some of the most sensitive cases a police force can be expected to handle. I would like to thank the survivors who have shown bravery and determination in assisting us during our investigation.
“Stress and sickness were a problem in the team. Working within a child abuse investigationteam is not an easy area of policing and we do not underestimate the impact it has on those officers. They see, hear and are told things which are beyond our worst nightmares. As such, we recommended to Essex Police that they ought to consider compulsory counselling for officers attached to child abuse investigation teams rather than rely on a questionnaire system they had in place.”
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