Met police sex crime unit 'inexperienced', says judge

A police squad intended to investigate sex crimes was under-resourced and run by inexperienced officers, a judge has said.

A "Sapphire" unit was established in Southwark, south-east London, six years ago.

Mr Justice Collins, speaking at a hearing into the investigation of an alleged rape, criticised the unit.

The Metropolitan Police said it was a matter for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Judicial review

In early 2005 detectives investigated the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl.

A man was charged with raping the girl but found not guilty after a trial, the court heard.

Relatives of the alleged victim were unhappy with the inquiry and asked the IPCC to investigate an officer.

The IPCC decided not to ask police to take disciplinary action - and the family then sought a judicial review into the decision.

Series of mistakes

On Tuesday Mr Justice Collins sided with the family, saying the IPCC should have taken action.

An IPCC spokeswoman said: "We are aware of today's ruling and await the full written judgement of the court."

In a report published two years ago, the IPCC said police investigating the girl's rape allegation had made a series of mistakes.

Officials said the inquiry had not been properly supervised, forensic opportunities had not been explored and mobile phone evidence "lost" because of errors.

'Shambolic' investigation

The Met has apologised to the family for its failing.

During the hearing, Mr Justice Collins said: "There was a unit which had recently been set up in Southwark called the Sapphire unit.

"Unfortunately there was a complete failure to provide the necessary resources to enable the unit to operate properly.

"The result was that inexperienced police officers were put in charge."

He added the police investigation into the the teenager's allegation was "shambolic".

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