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Woman settles case against police following flawed investigation

A woman who was subjected to sexual abuse when she was a child has been awarded damages by Leicester Police after a flawed investigation resulted in the collapse of the trial against the alleged perpetrator of the abuse.

Posted on 17 January 2019

Yvonne Kestler, solicitor in the human rights department at law firm Leigh Day represented the woman in her claim against the police for failures to investigate an allegation of serious sexual assault.
The woman, known as AB to protect her identity, brought a legal claim for malfeasance in public office against the Chief Constable of Leicester Police after she was left with no recourse for achieving justice against the alleged perpetrator because of the way the police investigation was carried out.
AB reported allegations of abuse to the police in February 2011. She reported that she had been abused in the late 1970s and 1980s when she was between the ages of seven and 15/16. As a result the alleged perpetrator was arrested and charged with five counts of child cruelty and four counts of indecent assault.
The police officer in charge of the investigation was a PC in the force’s Child Abuse Information Unit (CAIU). In December 2011 the PC was required to leave the CAIU as he had twice failed detective exams. In December 2012 he was served with a formal written warning following a finding of professional misconduct against him. Despite this he remained the lead officer in AB’s case.
In AB’s legal claim she argued that the PC failed to interview witnesses, failed to pursue a number of obvious lines of inquiry, failed to record conversations with witnesses and contacted witnesses during the trial.
During an investigation into the PC’s handling of the case following a complaint made by AB in 2014 it was discovered that one of the witnesses died before being spoken to about the case and another was able to provide further lines of enquiry which had been missed by the PC. In addition the officer had failed to follow up other lines of enquiry which would have given him the opportunity to refer other sexual abuse cases for investigation and  identify risks to children.
As well as his role as lead officer in the case the PC was also responsible for the disclosure of  evidence that may either support or undermine the  prosecution case. The investigation into his handling of the case found that he did not appear to properly understand the disclosure process and had failed in his legal responsibilities for disclosure in the case by causing and/or permitting evidence to be destroyed or not otherwise be made available.
The PC resigned from the police force in 2014.
A settlement was agreed in the case and compensation was awarded to AB as well as an unequivocal apology from the Chief Constable who acknowledged that the investigation into her allegations fell below the expected standard.
AB said:
“I am pleased that Leicester police have acknowledged that their investigation into my case was flawed and that some steps have been taken since then to change their procedures. However, I am now left with no way to bring the perpetrator of my abuse to justice, having already gone through the incredibly difficult investigation and failed trial process. It is extremely distressing for me to know that my abuser may never be brought to justice for the crimes he committed against me and that I was failed so terrible by the police, whom I trusted.”
Yvonne Kestler, solicitor in Leigh Day’s actions against the police team, added:
“While there is no way that our client can turn back the clock and receive a proper and thorough investigation of her case we are pleased that she has received compensation that will help with ongoing support and a formal apology and acknowledgment of the failings by Leicester Police. Police forces must adequately train and supervise their officers to ensure investigations are carried out properly from the outset.”
Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers was instructed.