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Head of the Actions Against the Police Department at Irvings Law, Mr Matthew McConville, has successfully represented a client (Lisa Stevens) in a claim against Essex Police for misfeasance in public office and breaching her human rights on the basis of serious and egregious errors being committed by an investigating Police Officer whom now has been jailed.

Mrs Stevens was unfortunately the victim of historic sexual abuse but her perpetrator later returned to her local area which prompted her to her mother about the abuse for the first time. Mrs Stevens and her mother telephoned Essex Police in May 2011. The North Essex Child Abuse Investigation Team (“NECAIT”) investigated or purported to investigate the child abuse allegations relating to Mrs Stevens and the Officer in Charge was Detective Constable (“DC”) Sharon Patterson. Unfortunately, the investigation did not result in any formal charges being brought against Mrs Stevens’ perpetrator.

However, in September 2014, there was a corruption investigation by Norfolk Constabulary and the Police Watchdog into the Essex Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Team. The corruption probe began following a victim complaining that her signature on a witness statement had been forged and of which was done so by DC Patterson. The corruption investigation lasted for four years; some 30 officers were investigated and 296 child abuse cases were looked at and in November 2014, 55 of 296 child abuse cases were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (“IPCC”) (which became the Independent Office for Police Conduct (“IOPC”) in January 2018); one of which included Mrs Stevens’ matter.

After the IPCC investigation, the IPCC considered its findings sufficiently serious to pass matters to the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”). The CPS charged DC Patterson (and colleague DC Pollard whom had been having an affair with one another) with three counts each of wilfully misconducting themselves in public office by falsifying charging decisions, forging a signature, misrepresenting evidence and destroying exhibits. One of the criminal charges against DC Patterson related directly to her actions within the investigation of Mrs Stevens’ case but all charges were denied by DC Patterson and DC Pollard so the matter went to trial in the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) (the “Criminal Trial”) where Mrs Stevens/her mother were summonsed to attend.

During the Criminal Trial, the Court heard that DC Patterson (and DC Pollard) concealed evidence out of laziness and “cynical disdain” for the victims. Their behaviour went beyond incompetence and could not be put down to insufficient manpower or resources. DC Patterson sent DC Pollard an email which stated of one of her investigations “I’m not even asking questions … I’m not interested. I’m not picking any other shit up.” Further, DC Patterson cancelled a meeting at which social services records were to be reviewed and in Court, she said that this was due to “something more pressing” but was unable to confirm what that was. It then emerged that DC Patterson emailed DC Pollard a few minutes after cancelling this meeting stating “I’m getting my nails done in a minute, what colour do you suggest?”.

After a 4 ½ hour pause in emails, an email was sent to DC Patterson by DC Pollard which stated “thank you for lunch. I love you”. DC Patterson then replied “It was lovely to spend time with you. Thank you and I love you heaps!! LOL”. DC Pollard responded “We ate lashings and lashings of Chinese grub”.  DC Pollard also described DC Patterson as his “deceptive partner in crime” in flirtatious emails after DC Patterson had forged a document to shut down a child abuse investigation.

The presiding judge, Judge Nigel Lickley QC, told DC Patterson and DC Pollard “you failed the victims”, you “had committed multiple acts of dishonesty” and “betrayed the public’s faith and confidence in you”. After the verdict, the Defendant’s Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Prophet, apologised for the investigative failures and stated publicly that the Defendant had “let down” a number of victims. This apology and acceptance of failing was echoed by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst. IOPC regional director Sarah Green stated after the verdict: “It is inexcusable for any officer to deliberately fail in their duties… [but] it feels particularly reprehensible that officers with responsibility for investigating child abuse investigation allegations behaved in a manner that risked allowing child abusers to go unpunished. Survivors of child abuse must have confidence in their police force and feel secure that their allegations will be properly and thoroughly handled.”

On 10 May 2019, DC Patterson received an 18-month custodial sentence (and DC Pollard received a two-year custodial sentence). Judge Nigel Hickley QC added at their sentencing hearing that the two Detective Constables had “failed victims” and that there were “multiple acts of dishonesty which betrayed public faith and confidence”. It was only after the Criminal Trial and conviction of DC Patterson that Mrs Stevens became aware of the extent of the investigative failings that had been committed, the fact that her human rights had been infringed and the fact that she was entitled to claim damages.


As such, Mrs Stevens approached specialist Actions Against the Police Solicitor at Irvings Law, Mr Matthew McConville whom without hesitation offered Mrs Stevens no win, no fee terms to seek some recourse from Essex Police albeit the damage in not securing a conviction of her perpetrator was already done. Mr McConville then presented a claim to Essex Police alleging Misfeasance in Public Office as well as Mrs Stevens’ human rights being infringed through serious and egregious errors being committed when investigating the crime where she was a victim of sexual assault.


In response, Essex Police denied that DC Patterson’s actions were malicious and in terms of the presented human rights claim, Essex Police attempted to defend this by arguing that it had been brought by Mrs Stevens out of time. As liability was not admitted by Essex Police and no offers of settlement were put forward, Mr McConville advised Mrs Stevens to issue proceedings so as to allow the Court to assess the position that Essex Police were taking. The matter then proceeded through litigation but before the Court had a chance to assess Essex Police’s position, Mrs Stevens’ claim was settled for over £20,000.00 in total.

Author: Matthew McConville