Police officer failed to investigate girl's rape claims a year before her death

Police officer failed to investigate girl's rape claims a year before her death

By Adele Forrest | 04/06/2021

Police officer failed to investigate girl's rape claims a year before her death

A POLICE officer has been given a final written warning over the handling of an investigation into the rape of a teenage girl — who was later found dead. 

The girl’s father and stepfather found the girl’s body after she had not returned home from school.

Her death came a year after she had reported to police that she had been raped and sexually assaulted.

A male police officer involved in her rape investigation, who was based in Barnsley at the time, has now been reprimanded for three misconduct breaches in relation to the girl’s case.

But after a two-year investigation, the police watchdog has concluded it has not identified any “learning opportunities”. 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct, who published the findings of its investigation on Tuesday (June 1), said: “Throughout this investigation, we carefully considered whether there were any opportunities for learning or improvement. 

“In this case, we did not identify any learning opportunities.”

In October 2017, the girl reported to South Yorkshire Police that she had been sexually assaulted. The force interviewed a suspect who denied the offences. The girl made further allegations of sexual offences during the investigation. 

In May 2018, SYP decided there was no realistic prospect of a conviction and finalised the investigation without referring the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). 

Six months later, the girl’s body was discovered by her father and stepfather on November 16, 2018.

The following February, her stepfather complained that SYP had failed to adequately investigate the allegations, had failed to refer them to the CPS for their consideration and had also failed to provide the necessary safeguarding measures to support and protect his stepdaughter. 

He believed her mental health had deteriorated as a result and believed that this was a contributory factor in her death. 

South Yorkshire Police subsequently re-investigated the allegations and referred the case to the CPS, who decided to take no further action.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) obtained witness statements from the police officers involved in the sexual offences investigation and “investigative material from partner agencies detailing their interactions with SYP and the girl”. 

The IOPC said: “The available evidence indicated that one of the SYP investigating officers for the sexual offences investigation may have acted outside local policy and procedure and national guidance during the investigation. 

“We completed our investigation in September 2020 and shared our report with SYP who agreed that the investigating officer had a case to answer for misconduct and should appear before a misconduct meeting. 

“The investigation concluded there was no indication that any other police officers or police staff may have behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or committed a criminal offence. All were treated as witnesses.”

The officer appeared before a police misconduct hearing in February 2021 for three breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour. 

The officer, who is no longer based in Barnsley, accepted he had failed to record the girl’s rape allegation on the SYP system and had failed to adequately investigate the rape and sexual assault allegations.

Det Supt David Cowley, who chaired the misconduct meeting, also upheld the third allegation that the officer had failed to take appropriate action to safeguard the victim from future harm from the alleged perpetrator.

The chair said the three failures amounted to misconduct and the most appropriate outcome was a final written warning.

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