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Sandra Laville, Tuesday 31st July 2012 18:48
The police watchdog is investigating the way the Humberside force investigated a sexual assault claim against one of its police community support officers after the alleged victim complained about her treatment.
The IPCC said on Tuesday that it was mounting an independent inquiry into the force's investigation of a complaint by a woman that she had been assaulted by a PCSO when he visited her while on duty in January.
The officer was never charged with a criminal offence because the force did not refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service. The PCSO – who has not been named – resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken against him.
The IPCC inquiry comes after another Humberside PCSO, Gary Hastings, was jailed for 10 years in January for child sex offences.
A month ago, the Guardian highlighted the scale of sexual assaults and harassment by policemen on vulnerable women and children, some of whom officers meet while on duty.
IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long said the latest case was worrying, because it was the second in which allegations of sexual assault had been made against a PCSO from Humberside.
"In this case a woman has real concerns about how she was dealt with and how the investigation was conducted. I believe it is in the public interest for the IPCC to independently investigate the handling of this case," he said.
The alleged victim complained that the PCSO had sexually assaulted her while on duty when he visited her home on 31 January this year. The officer was arrested by Humberside police on suspicion of sexual assault and misconduct in a public office, and the case was referred to the IPCC, which supervised the investigation.
But the PCSO resigned from Humberside in February – which meant no further disciplinary action could be taken against him. The IPCC said on Tuesday that, as a result, it had decided to end its supervision and left the criminal inquiry to progress. But the Humberside investigation ended without the case being referred to the CPS for consideration of any charges.
Learning of this, the alleged victim complained to the IPCC. She raised concerns about the way the criminal inquiry had been handled, and said the incident had never been investigated properly and that it concluded by finding that she had consented to the sex act – something she firmly denies. She also said she had never been informed of the outcome of the criminal investigation.
As a result of her complaint, the IPCC said on Tuesday that it was carrying out an independent investigation into the handling of the case.
In January Gary Hastings, a Humberside PCSO, was jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual activity with two children.
Hastings 48, had served as a PCSO in Immingham, north-east Lincolnshire, and is a former foster carer. He resigned from the Humberside force after being suspended.
In June a Guardian investigation revealed how sexual predators in the police service were abusing their power to sexually assault and harass vulnerable victims, including women and children.
The investigation highlighted 56 cases involving police officers and a handful of community support officers, who either were found to have abused their position to rape, sexually assault or harass women and young people or were investigated over such allegations.
Among the 56 cases documented by the Guardian was the case of Hastings.
Such is the concern of the IPCC and the Association of Chief Police officers that they are carrying out an inquiry into the problem and will publish a report in September.