Independent Police Complaints Commission
Recommendations issued to South Yorkshire Police by IPCC following Ian Watkins sexual abuse investigation
Improvements to how South Yorkshire Police (SYP) investigates child sexual abuse have been recommended following an investigationby the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into complaints that the force failed to act on allegations about Ian Watkins.
The IPCC investigation was carried out following complaints from Joanne Mjadzelics that officers failed to investigate allegations she repeatedly made to SYP against Watkins between March and May 2012. She complained that officers failed to conduct an examination of her laptop when she took it to Doncaster Police Station three times during that period. The laptop allegedly contained an indecent image of a child that Watkins, then lead singer of the Lostprophets rock band, had allegedly sent her.
IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said: “Having taken into consideration the nature and seriousness of Ms Mjadzelics’ allegations against Watkins, the inaction of some South Yorkshire police officers involved may have placed a child at risk of further abuse for several months.
“The evidence suggests there was a general view among officers at Doncaster that Ms Mjadzelics was not to be taken seriously, and consequently enquiries were not progressed as they should have been.
“It is concerning that a neighbourhood police constable without specific training or support, rather than an officer from a specialist team, was expected to view and make judgement on a potential image of child sexual abuse.
“South Yorkshire Police did not handle a request for assistance from South Wales Police thoroughly. I have recommended they create a policy document setting out what is expected of officers in collaborating on serious offence investigations.”
The IPCC has recommended to South Yorkshire Police that:
- only suitably trained and qualified officers carry out child sex abuse investigations;
- their process for allocating serious offence enquiries should be reviewed to ensure they are assigned to the appropriate department; and
- a policy document is created to assist SYP collaboration with other police forces.
In addition to the force recommendations, the IPCC investigation concluded that three officers would have had a case to answer for gross misconduct for their inaction over the allegations, however they have each retired, following 30 years’ service and therefore no further action can be taken against them.
One officer was found to have a case to answer for misconduct over alleged inappropriate remarks made to Ms Mjadzelics and a misconduct meeting will be held in respect of those matters.
The investigation found that a request in early March 2012 from South Wales Police for assistance with allegations from Ms Mjadzelics was initially allocated to the SYP Safer Neighbourhood Team, rather than its specialist Public Protection Unit (PPU). This led to a police constable with no training in the investigation of child sex abuse, or in the handling and preservation of evidence in computer-related offences, conducting an initial meeting with Ms Mjadzelics at Doncaster police station. The constable did not view any image, and there was no subsequent determined effort to ascertain whether Ms Mjadzelics had evidence of child sexual abuse in her possession.
Later, in May 2012, a constable from the PPU had been instructed by a senior officer to seize the laptop at a further meeting with Ms Mjadzelics at Doncaster police station and to take a statement, but neither action was undertaken. On viewing the relevant alleged close-up indecent image of a child at the meeting, officers believed it to be of an adult female. The investigation also considered the supervisory actions of a police sergeant over other officers involved.
In the IPCC investigator’s opinion, there was sufficient evidence that a police constable involved could have made inappropriate remarks to Ms Mjadzelics at the police station, about the reasons why she was making allegations about Watkins.
The IPCC investigation considered a range of national and force policies on child abuse enquiries, and powers of seizure under PACE.
Ian Watkins was arrested on 21 September 2012 by South Wales Police, initially in connection with drugs offences. He was further arrested on 24 October 2012 on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children and of publishing an obscene article.
Background to complaints about SYP
On 1 March 2012, Ms Mjadzelics contacted the South Wales Police Public Protection Unit (PPU) to report that she had information concerning child sex offences committed by Ian Watkins. South Wales Police requested assistance from South Yorkshire Police, as Ms Mjadzelics was living in their force area at the time.
On 4 March 2012, Ms Mjadzelics took her laptop to Doncaster Police Station and stated that it held an indecent image of a minor. The officer who spoke with Ms Mjadzelics on that occasion did not view the content or seize the laptop.
Ms Mjadzelics took her laptop to Doncaster Police Station again on 3 May 2012, and informed officers that Watkins had sent her an indecent image of a minor. Again, officers did not seize the laptop.
Ms Mjadzelics took her laptop to Doncaster Police Station a third time on 11 May 2012. On that occasion, officers viewed the image, but told her that it was an adult female. The image was not viewed by specialist child protection investigators at any point. The laptop was subsequently destroyed, prior to Watkins’ arrest.
Ms Mjadzelics subsequently complained that South Yorkshire Police did not conduct a proper examination of her laptop, and also that a female officer had used inappropriate language towards her on one occasion.
South Yorkshire Police voluntarily referred Ms Mjadzelics’ complaints to the IPCC, who determined that the allegations should be subject of an independent investigation.
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