Essex child abuse detectives guilty of misconduct

image copyrightPA
image captionLee Pollard and Sharon Patterson were found guilty of misconduct in public office

Two police officers who scuppered child abuse investigations through laziness have been found guilty of misconduct in a public office.

Essex Police Det Con Lee Pollard, 47, was convicted of two counts while his partner Det Con Sharon Patterson, 49, was found guilty of one count.

Patterson was found not guilty of one count and the Old Bailey jury was unable to reach verdicts in a further charge against each.

The pair will be sentenced on 3 May.

The allegations against the officers, who now live together in Colchester, came to light when performance reviews were carried out into the child abuse investigation team in which they worked.

'Beyond incompetence'

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC had told the jury the motivation of the pair - who at the time were having an affair - appeared to be "a combination of laziness, self-preservation and a cynical disdain for complainants in child abuse investigations".

Their conduct was "beyond incompetence" and not down to a "lack of resources" or "insufficient investigative manpower", she said.

Patterson was accused of ditching work to get a manicure and have a four-hour lunch at a Chinese restaurant with her married lover Pollard.

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image captionSharon Patterson and Lee Pollard's trial was held at The Old Bailey

When she forged a document to shut down one investigation, Pollard described herself as his "deceptive partner in crime" in flirtatious emails, jurors heard.

The pair denied wrongdoing, citing administrative chaos at the child abuse unit in north Essex where they both worked.

The convictions bring to a close a four-year corruption probe into the Essex Police unit by the neighbouring Norfolk force and the police watchdog.

Thirty officers, some now retired, were investigated and 296 Essex child abuse cases looked at, of which 55 were referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

The defendants were the only ones to face criminal charges, but a third officer was sacked for gross misconduct last year.

Five officers resigned or retired when the investigation began and two officers who were found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct had left the force before action was taken against them.

Essex Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet apologised to victims on behalf of the force.

He said: "Today's trial has highlighted that between 2011 and 2014 we let a number of victims and their families down.

"Those victims had suffered child abuse, one of the most heinous crimes imaginable."

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