PCs failed to investigate Bristol sex assault claims

pcs failed to investigate bristol sex assault claims - PCs failed to investigate Bristol sex assault claims
Image caption The officers appeared before a misconduct panel at the force HQ in Portishead

Two police officers have kept their jobs despite failing to investigate a drug addict’s claims she was sexually assaulted while semi-conscious.

A misconduct panel heard PC Emma Benson-Shaw and PC Joshua Stevens of Avon and Somerset Police believed she was lying about taking an overdose because of an “unconscious bias”.

The inexperienced officers did “less than the minimum required” to investigate the woman’s claims.

They were given final written warnings.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service. the panel at the force HQ in Portishead heard the officers were told before they arrived at the Bristol hostel that the sex worker was suicidal and looking for tablets to take as a result of the alleged attack last summer.

The woman, who cannot be named, told them she had overdosed but they believed she was lying, the panel heard.

‘Not deliberate’

Panel chair Anna Vigars said there was “no way of knowing what drugs she had taken”.

“The panel doesn’t find [the victim] was treated differently because of who she was.

“She was subject to unconscious bias. They wrote off her condition down to her class A drug use.

“They failed to give her the attention they would have given a complainant without those difficulties. We don’t find that was deliberate.”

The officers, who joined the force in 2017, said the woman was sleeping against a door when they left, claiming she was not in a fit state to give evidence.

She was later hospitalised after being found unresponsive.

‘Less than the minimum required’

Ms Vigars said any competent officer would have checked on the woman’s health before leaving.

The panel also also criticised failings in the sexual assault investigation.

The officers did not collect a kit to take swabs, they did not tell her not to wash to preserve any DNA evidence, and they did not take a description of the suspect or take steps to arrest him.

Ms Vigars said: “They did less than the minimum required of a competent investigation.”

She said their dismissal would have been justified, but public confidence in the police service could be maintained if they were handed a final written warning.

She said the outcome would have been different if they had been more experienced or better supported.

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