26 Mar 2015

Ian Watkins: detectives ‘have case to answer for misconduct’

Home Affairs Correspondent

Two detectives have been criticised in a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over their handling of a case involving the paedophile Ian Watkins, former Lostprophets frontman.

Ian Watkins (Getty Images)

The police watchdog concludes that the officers, both from Bedfordshire police, have “a case to answer for misconduct” over their response to a report made by the former rock singer’s ex-girlfriend Joanne Mjadzelics, writes Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Andy Davies.

Ms Mjadzelics contacted Bedfordshire Police in October 2012 to claim that a woman was allowing Ian Watkins to sexually abuse her 18-month-old child. The woman, referred to in the report as “Miss A”, was eventually jailed in 2013 alongside Ian Watkins in connection with child sex offences, some of which involved the abuse of her child.

Ms Mjadzelics has always maintained that a number of forces, including Bedfordshire, failed to take appropriate action following reports which she made to them about Watkins. However, despite the criticism of the officers in this case, the IPCC says it found nothing “to say the force could definitely have prevented any offending, or contributed to bringing Ian Watkins to justice sooner”.

Abuse allegation

The IPCC has been investigating the response of South Wales Police, South Yorkshire Police and Bedfordshire Police to allegations spanning several years that Watkins was abusing children. The report scrutinising the role of Bedfordshire Police (and the first to be published) focuses on an allegation made to them on 9 October 2012 by Joanne Mjadzelics.

Ms Mjadzelics is a former girlfriend of Watkins who was cleared of child sex abuse image offences earlier this year. She has stated in the past that she passed messages between herself and the child’s mother to the police which should have raised very serious concerns about the child’s welfare.

Following Ms Mjadzelics’s call to Bedfordshire police, it appears that police and social services visited Miss A at her home the following day. The police investigation is described by the IPCC as “prompt” and “timely” and it says the officers involved “had the welfare of Miss A’s child uppermost in their minds”.

However, the IPCC questions why Miss A’s electronic devices, believed to include an iPhone and iPad, were not seized at the time. The report also criticises the officers for failing to record why they chose not to take the items away for analysis.

‘Kid thing’

Channel 4 News understands that in one of the exchanges between Ms Mjadzelics and Miss A – shown to the police – Miss A replies with the words: “I didn’t think that you were into the whole kid thing”. Joanne Mjadzelics has stated previously that her messages to Miss A were contrived to elicit as much information as possible to pass to the police.

The IPCC found that the officers had failed “to examine discrepancies between Miss A’s account and social media messages she exchanged with Ms Mjadzelics with sufficient rigour”. It was five weeks following the home visit to Miss A before she was eventually arrested.

The officers are also criticised for failing to review the allegation made in this case by Ms Mjadzelics when it became clear three days later that a separate abuse allegation she’d made about another woman connected to Watkins was in fact true.

The two officers in question refused to answer questions when interviewed by the IPCC’s investigators. The IPCC said it was “disappointed” that the officers decided instead to provide written accounts.

‘Management action’

According to the IPCC, Bedfordshire Police has decided that the two officers should receive “management action”. Channel 4 News understands that this will take the form of an “improvement action plan” which will see the officers’ work scrutinised in more detail over a three-month period. The force is also providing briefings to officers within its public protection unit as a result of this case.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Lay, from Bedfordshire Police, said: “We are pleased that the officers involved have been exonerated of any blame concerning their actions in safeguarding the child and that the IPCC recognised that the officers acted in the best interests of the victim. We accept the recommendations regarding record keeping and will put a plan in place to address the issues raised”.

Ms Mjadzelics told Channel 4 News that she was “furious” with the IPCC press release which she described as a “cover-up of what the report really said”. The full IPCC investigation report has not been published.

A spokesman for the IPCC said in response: “We are satisfied the news release covers fairly the key findings from our investigation.”

Further IPCC investigations into how other forces handled allegations of abuse involving Ian Watkins are due to be completed later this year.