Investigation launched into way Essex Police responded to reports a girl was victim of child sex exploitation and other child abuse cases

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson at a press conference today (Tuesday).

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson at a press conference today (Tuesday). - Credit: Archant

Problems with child abuse investigations affecting 59 young victims in north Essex, including crimes as serious as rape, have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The IPCC investigations include claims an Essex police officer fraudulently signed a complainant’s statement and another into the force’s response to reports that a girl was allegedly the victim of child sexual exploitation.

Essex Police has drafted in new officers, will revise its policies and has invited children’s charities to form a new advisory group after uncovering problems with the effectiveness of 30 investigations into abuse.

One officer has been suspended from duty while 11 others have are on restricted duties and taken off the teams.

In a statement, the Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, said: “I was very disappointed to learn of this and I am now determined that we find out exactly what has happened and to rectify things quickly, not least for the victims.

“The force is working hard to put in place new systems to stop this from happening again.

“If individuals have failed in their duties then they will be held to account, but we will also look at all possible aspects of why this has happened.”

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“A recovery plan has been developed and many actions are already under way.”

Of the 30 referrals made to the IPCC, 17 are historical cases dating back as far as the 1960s, while 13 are said to be more recent.

They involve children aged from “very young” to 17, and include rape cases. All involve perpetrators known to the 59 victims.

Deputy Chief Inspector Derek Benson, addressing a press conference this morning, said he expected the IPCC investigation would include looking to see if any victims had become victims, or suffered further abuse, because prompt action had not been taken by officers.

Nick Alston, Essex police and crime commissioner, said: “That children who may have suffered serious abuse were subsequently let down by Essex Police is of the greatest concern to me, as it is to the Chief Constable, who has kept me closely informed of this issue since it came to light.”

The IPCC is managing the investigation, which is being conducted by Norfolk and Suffolk Police’s joint Professional Standards Department.

IPCC Commissioner for Essex, Mary Cunneen said: “Child abuse ruins people’s lives, so it is important police get these investigations right and victims feel confident their cases will be properly handled.”

“The concerns regarding investigations carried out by Essex Police’s north CAIT are serious and I appreciate this news will be very distressing for victims and their families. It is vital that our investigations are able to establish what happened in the north CAIT investigations and why.”

The plans put forward by Essex Police include:

An experienced senior retired detective has been brought in from outside to review the live investigations being conducted in North Essex.

New officers have taken over all those investigations which have caused concern and additional investigators have been drafted in to assist.

A revised policy is being introduced to ensure that investigation are reviewed on a consistent and regular basis by supervisors at all levels so that enquiries are continually progressed and meet the high standards expected.

New monitoring systems are being put in place across all of our child abuse investigations teams to closely access the workloads of officer and ensure none of them are stretched too far.

Senior officer and detectives are carrying out briefings to reinforce with supervisors the importance of close management of investigations

Children’s charities, Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, and the NSPCC, have been invited to form part of a new Child Abuse Advisory Group to ensure the force has the expert advice and independent assessment it needs.

The Chief Constable’s statement continues: “We have contacted the families of those involved in these investigations to let them know what is happening and apologise for the undoubted distress this has caused then.

“If any victims of families are worried about child abuse investigations by Essex Police I would urge them to call our special helpline number on 01245 282103.”