Cambridgeshire police make changes after investigation into online paedophiles went 'unprogessed' for more than two and a half years

Cambridgeshire Police have said changes have been made after an investigation into online paedophiles went 'unprogressed' for more than two and a half years.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:16 pm
Police

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report started an investigation into the force over the 'failure to progress two criminal investigations conducted by a detective in Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) between January 2016 – April 2019. One investigation went un-progressed for 1 year and 8 months, and the other 2 years and 7 months.'

The report said a part-time detective within POLIT was allocated two cases from a colleague who was on long term leave. Despite working part-time, the detective already had a workload equivalent to a full-time member of staff and therefore struggled to progress the additional investigations in the absence of their colleague.

The report added: " The IOPC recommends that Cambridgeshire Constabulary ensure there is sufficient training and support in place for sergeants from both their inspectors and HR to enable them to manage performance effectively.

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"This follows an IOPC investigation where a sergeant was not confident in managing the performance of a detective, and so did not implement an action plan when the detective did not progress two investigations over a period of years. It became apparent during the investigation that the role of HR in performance management has been reduced in recent years, and that inspectors do not have an active role in the performance management of detectives."

The IOPC made a number of recommendations to the force, saying: " The IOPC recommends that Cambridgeshire Constabulary takes steps to ensure that sufficient wellbeing and welfare support are in place for officers and staff working in the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT). This should include considering:

- psychological screening or assessment as part of the recruitment or vetting process for those applying to join the POLIT or any other department which would regularly expose officers to indecent images of children;

- removing or reducing the reliance on officers to self-identify any wellbeing and welfare issues;

- how to appropriate elements of the College of Policing's (COP) guidance on Supporting the wellbeing of Internet Child Abuse Teams can be implemented.

"This follows an IOPC investigation in which a detective in POLIT was struggling with their wellbeing and this led to a failure to progress certain investigations. The detective answered an annual self-assessment questionnaire in a way that did not flag the issues they were having, and therefore they went undetected until they raised them with their sergeant sometime later. Psychological screening at an early stage and the guidance set out by the COP could help identify and address issues at an earlier stage."

In response to the report, Detective Superintendent John Massey said: “Since this report was compiled measures have been put in place to regularly review the workloads of officers in the department and provide additional support to line managers to ensure they are able to supervise their teams effectively.

“The training provided to officers in the department is under review and a new mentoring scheme is already in operation.

“Officers within the POLIT undergo annual psychological testing to ensure they remain suitable for their role. Their wellbeing is of the utmost importance and is a topic of monthly supervision and other ongoing contact with their line manager.”