Essex

Essex Police officers to face misconduct charges

Children at risk Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption An Essex Police team's handling of child abuse allegations was referred to the police watchdog in 2015

Two police officers who were part of a child abuse investigation team are to face criminal charges for misconduct.

The Essex Police officers are accused of falsifying charging decisions, forging a signature, misrepresenting evidence and destroying exhibits.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been invesitigating alleged failings in child abuse cases between 2011 and 2014 at the force.

It said "considerable changes" had been made to investigation methods.

Det Con Sharon Patterson and former Det Con Lee Pollard will each face three counts of misconduct in public office.

The IOPC said prosecutors had decided there was not enough evidence to charge four further individuals.

One of them, who is still a serving detective constable, will face gross misconduct proceedings.

The police watchdog said it had been managing a total of 55 investigations into alleged failings in child abuse investigations.

Regional director Sarah Green said: "After reviewing the investigation reports there was an indication that some current and former officers may have committed criminal offences.

'Most sensitive cases'

"Following the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge, we will be working with them to bring this matter before the courts and every effort has been made to notify the survivors involved in those cases."

The investigators spoke to 160 witnesses and interviewed 26 officers, Ms Green said.

"These are very serious allegations over how police officers handled some of the most sensitive cases brought before them," she added.

Essex Police said independent inspections in 2017 concluded the force had made "significant improvements in the way in which it recognises and responds to people who are vulnerable".

It said it could not comment in detail on the charges or the IOPC investigation.

"The force has apologised to children and families affected by failings in our investigation and we reiterate that apology today," an Essex Police spokesman said.

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