Detective failed to properly record child sexual abuse, panel hears
A police detective is accused of failing to properly report allegations of child sexual abuse against three girls.
Celia MacDonald resigned her post at Horsham Safeguarding Unit last week after being accused of gross misconduct.
It is alleged that two of the girls told DC MacDonald they and another girl had been sexually assaulted, but instead of recording it as a crime she reported that the girls ‘made no clear disclosure and there were no immediate safeguarding concerns’.
It is further alleged that she allowed the investigation to proceed without police involvement, and then 13 months later closed the case when she should have known it should be further investigated.
Speaking at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes today, solicitor Martin Forshaw said the allegation related to a report made by a teenage girl to a member of staff at the college she attended.
He said the girl alleged the man had behaved inappropriately towards her in the past and was then doing the same to another girl.
DC MacDonald, who resigned on June 10, declined to appear at her hearing today.
The member of college staff passed on the allegations to social services, who in turn contacted police.
The panel heard that DC MacDonald and trainee detective PC Michelle Hayes went to visit the teenager, and also met another of the girls.
PC Hayes asked the girls questions while DC MacDonald recorded the answers.
During the interview the second girl told the officers the man had touched her inappropriately. The officers did not speak to the third girl.
Mr Forshaw said: “Following the visit the officers returned to Crawley Police Station and later that evening DC MacDonald entered her notes in to the occurrence entry log.
“Detective Sergeant Pink was informed that the females A and B had made no clear disclosure and there were no immediate safeguarding concerns.
“No further action was taken by any of the officers mentioned.”
The panel heard that 13 months later DC MacDonald was asked to update the log entry about her visit to see the girls.
Mr Forshaw said that DC MacDonald spoke to PC Hayes on the phone about their visit, but the content of the call is disputed.
He added: “Whatever occurred on May 17, DC MacDonald entered a note to the occurrence record saying that no clear disclosures had been made at the joint meeting and requested that the case can be filed away.
“We say her motivation for compiling that entry was to close the file off, when an experienced detective looking at the previous entry would know that they ought to have made further enquiries.”
The panel heard that later that day the record was filed away.
Defending DC MacDonald, solicitor Adam James said: “It would seem that nobody comes out of this with great conduct.”
He said that she accepts ‘her part in a corporate failure’ but not that she was the primary decision maker.
“There are others who should have been supervising her.”
When PC Hayes gave evidence Mr James asked her who was in charge of the visit.
She replied: “I was never told or asked to become the officer in charge. I asked if I could go along to get the experience.”
PC Hayes also said she was not involved in the decision not to report the girl’s allegations as a crime, or the decision to leave the investigation to social services.
She added: “DC MacDonald made that decision for it to be a single agency investigation.”
PC Hayes told the hearing that it was her impression that social services put measures in place to keep the girls safe.
The evidence is expected to continue tomorrow. Once it is completed the panel will assess the three allegations against DC MacDonald and decide if she is in breach of professional standards.