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Police officer spared formal action for giving back abuse image laptop

The laptop was handed back in 2012  Picture: MEDIOIMAGES/PHOTODISC

The laptop was handed back in 2012 Picture: MEDIOIMAGES/PHOTODISC

(c) Medioimages/Photodisc

An Essex police officer has been spared disciplinary action for returning a laptop containing indecent images to a man later convicted of rape.

An investigation was carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after a detective constable handed back devices to Paul Ashbury following his arrest on suspicion of sexual assault against a child and possessing indecent images in November 2012.

Seized computers were handed back in August 2013, when Essex Police decided to take no further action against the 52-year-old, of Kings Lynn, who was arrested by Norfolk police in October 2017 and later sentenced to 15 years in jail after admitting offences including rape, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child, and making indecent photographs of a child.

Norfolk officers examined Ashbury's laptop and found additional child abuse images, not believed to have been identified in Essex police's investigation.

Following a referral from Essex Police, the IOPC launched a probe to examine the conduct of officers from the west child abuse investigation team, and whether the investigation into Ashbury was conducted in accordance with policy, procedures and guidelines.

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It found the officer had a case to answer for misconduct after the computers were handed back, but no case to answer in relation to allegations he failed to appropriately investigate in 2012. It also concluded a supervising detective sergeant did not have a case to answer for misconduct.

Essex Police agreed with the findings and the officer received management action.

IOPC regional director, Sarah Green said: "These were serious allegations which required full and independent oversight.

"Essex Police concurred with our assessment and one officer has now received management action."

A force spokesman said: "Because this officer's actions were not intentional, although he was found to have a case to answer for misconduct, he was not made the subject of formal disciplinary proceedings and instead received management action.

"Whilst Essex Police takes all misconduct matters extremely seriously, it is important where honest mistakes are made that officers or staff are given the opportunity to learn from those errors and ensure that learning helps them provide a first class service to the people of Essex."

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