Officers still face inquiry over ‘incompetent’ child abuse investigation

Three police officers are still facing an internal disciplinary probe over an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse from an 11-year-old girl that was inexplicably sidelined for 18 months.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced last week that a U.K. team has been recruited to review and reform the Family Support Unit in the aftermath of the investigation, condemned by a judge as “grossly incompetent.”

The decision followed an internal audit that identified 16 other cases involving domestic abuse or child abuse, which were found to be “in varying degrees of completion,” according to a spokeswoman

A police spokeswoman said the internal audit and the recruitment of the U.K. investigators were separate from the disciplinary inquiry into officers in the Family Support Unit.

“A disciplinary investigation is still ongoing into the actions of the investigating officer in the case, as well as two supervising officers,” she said.

The officers have been moved to different roles as the investigation continues.

It emerged during a trial last year that officers in the unit had taken 18 months to follow up on a report from the 11-year-old girl who claimed she had been sexually abused by older relatives. The officer who took notes on the girl’s first interview also lost those notes.

Justice Timothy Owen said the “wholly unexplained and inexcusable delays” and the “truly lamentable” quality of the police response had harmed the chances of justice for both the child and her alleged abusers. Both men were found not guilty in September.

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Three U.K. officers, with extensive expertise in child abuse investigations, were brought in last week to help clear a backlog of cases identified in the internal audit of the Family Support Unit, which was ordered in the wake of the case.

Though the officers have been recruited on a short-term basis, their report will seek to identify long-term solutions for the unit, the spokeswoman said. Lack of experienced officers to handle a growing case load is understood to be a key issue.

“The new commissioner of police is undertaking an organization-wide assessment as one of his first tasks in his new role, and the critical shortage of resources in the Family Support Unit will be addressed within that context,” the spokeswoman said.

The internal audit is not being released publicly at this point, though police plan to release the final official report of the U.K. investigating team.

The new officers will also help clear a backlog of cases.

“The audit initially identified 16 cases involving domestic abuse or child abuse, in varying degrees of completion, which appear to require further investigation. This is only an initial figure, which could be revised up or down,” the police spokeswoman said.

“The new officers will determine more concretely the status of these as well as other cases in the FSU case load, and will work with FSU police officers to clear the backlog while ensuring victim care and access to justice.

“The governor has been informed of the findings of the audit, and is in support of the current review. The audit itself was generated for internal briefing purposes, and contains information about individual cases that is not suited for publication.

“The review will define in more concrete terms the scope and nature of the problem as well as the number of potentially affected cases. The findings of this review will be shared with the media at the end of the officers’ tenure.”

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