Investigation launched after force allegedly returned laptop containing child abuse images to sex offender
Essex Police may have returned a computer containing more than 100 child abuse images to a convicted paedophile.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating claims the force handed back a laptop to 52-year-old Paul Ashbury following his 2012 arrest on suspicion of sexually assaulting a child.
Officers seized computers belonging to Ashbury but returned them to him in August 2013 when it decided to take no further action.
Ashbury was then arrested by Norfolk Police in October 2017 and was later sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of rape, sexual assault, sexual activity with a child and making indecent photographs with a child.
The IOPC believes Norfolk Police identified additional child abuse images on his laptop that may not have been discovered during Essex Police’s investigation.
The inquiry will examine the conduct of officers from Essex Police’s west child abuse investigation team and whether the force’s investigation was carried out in line with proper procedures.
Sarah Green, IOPC regional director for the south east, said: “These are extremely serious allegations regarding how Essex Police investigated a man who later admitted multiple child sexual offences following the investigation by Norfolk Police.
“We will examine the officers’ actions and what if anything they could have done differently.”
A spokesperson for Essex Police said: “This investigation comes after Essex Police referred to the IOPC matters relating to a case from 2012.
“We are unable to comment in further detail at this stage but will of course comply fully with the investigation.
“Since this incident Essex Police has made significant improvements to policing of these offences and has invested heavily in more officers and better technology to identify offences and evidence and protect children.”