A sad and distressing case
The case of the rape of a young girl reported in a national newspaper this Sunday is one of profound failure by Essex Police. It has left a victim and her family utterly bereft of justice. Leads to other potential offences were not properly investigated at the time. Furthermore, it may have caused people in our county who need the help of Essex Police wondering if they can trust them.
These incidents happened in 2011. I became aware of them in 2013 and have met the parents of the victim on a number of occasions, most recently for a whole morning in October 2014. Like them I am determined that what went wrong is fully understood and that everything is done that can be done to prevent a repetition.
As soon as I became aware of the failures I explored with the Deputy Chief Constable what was being done. At that stage a detailed review by one of the most experienced detectives in Essex had started. I assured myself that the family were then being kept informed of progress. I also drew the attention of the new Chief Constable to this case and he too had an opportunity to meet the victim’s family.
In April 2013, the force referred itself to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which then oversaw an investigation by the Essex Police Professional Standards Department. I assured the family that the investigation would be reviewed by my Office once complete. That is the system we have established and which I believe is working reasonably well.
The formal procedures are now complete. Disciplinary proceedings were taken against a number of officers. Two officers in key roles in the case have retired.
My role now is to review all that has happened and in particular to assure myself that all the relevant issues have been fully explored and more positively that all that needed to be put right has been fixed. I know that there have been several changes of managers in the Public Protection Command.
Much of what needed to be fixed may well prove to have been to do with the attitude of officers. We must build a police service where every officer is motivated by the prevention of harm rather than the mindless chasing of targets, and that the impact on victims and their families is always kept at the centre of any decision taking, however difficult. I also want to ensure that those working in specialist units such as the Child Abuse Investigation Teams are properly trained, well managed and supported in the difficult work they do.
In addition, we have to do more to understand and seek to prevent the significant increase in sexual offences being committed by boys. I believe it is likely that inappropriate access to hardcore pornography on the Internet is driving much of this harm and we have to find solutions.
I feel deeply sorry for the victim and her family. Essex Police should not have let them down but they did. It is my role to ensure that all the actions taken subsequently have been conducted diligently, and especially that what was wrong that can be put right, has been put right.
Most sadly, for the victim the innocence of childhood cannot be restored.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex