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25 Aug 2017
Actions Against the Police
IPCC report: Ian Watkins & Operation Aster
In its Executive Summary Report issued today, the IPCC have confirmed that South Wales Police missed a number of opportunities to bring convicted paedophile Ian Watkins to justice sooner.
There were a number of reports and intelligence logs made about Watkins between 2008 and 2012 which were not adequately progressed. In December 2009, South Wales Police failed to examine the mobile phone of Watkins’ former partner which would have revealed a message explicitly setting out his desire to have sex with children. The police assessed the reports as lacking credibility and did not take adequate steps to progress them.
This failure resulted in Watkins going undetected for a further period of at least 3 years before he was finally arrested in 2012 following the execution of a drugs warrant. He was convicted in December 2013 and sentenced to 29 years’ imprisonment with a further 6 years on licence.
This raises some very serious and important questions. How many further unnecessary victims did this failure cause? Who is responsible for this failure? What can the victims do?
Whilst we will likely never know how many victims suffered as a result of the failure to bring Watkins to justice sooner, it is highly likely that many more victims suffered unnecessarily had the police taken adequate steps sooner.
The Chief Constable of South Wales Police is vicariously liable for all of the actions of his officers. In other words, he is responsible for the actions of his officers. Therefore, although the IPCC has considered various individual officers’ conduct, liability rests with the Chief Constable.
What can the victims do?
The law surrounding civil claims against the police is far from straightforward and is continuously being considered by the higher courts to ascertain the extent to which the police may be sued in negligence. However, it is examples such as this which, in my view, clearly illustrate the need for the police to be held accountable for their negligent decision making.
The Police, as a public authority, also have to consider their responsibilities to citizens under the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporates the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 3 of the Convention prohibits inhumane or degrading treatment. It could be said that the victims would have an action against the Chief Constable under this provision.
Each case will of course be unique and will turn on its own facts. However, this damning report from the IPCC clearly highlights the shortcomings in the investigation process which could have prevented further victims suffering at the hands of Watkins.
We are fully committed to assisting victims achieve compensation for their suffering as a result of the breach of their human rights and the negligence of the Police and other public authorities such as the local social services.
We frequently deal with matters of extreme sensitivity and successfully pursue actions against the Police and other public authorities relating to recent and historic sex abuse matters and are listed as the only solicitors firm in Wales with a legal aid contract to pursue civil actions against the police. If you do not qualify for legal aid, we can also consider whether your case is suitable for a ‘No-Win, No-Fee’ type arrangement.
For a free and confidential discussion about your matter, please contact our civil actions against the police specialist, Craig Court on 01633 244233. Craig is an Associate Solicitor within our Dispute Resolution team specialising in pursuing actions of this nature and is a member of the Police Action Lawyers Group.
Harding Evans is a trading name of Harding Evans LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in England & Wales (registered number: OC311802), authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number: 419663).