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Officers, staff and CPS commended for their role in bringing a multiple perpetrator of child sexual exploitation to justice

The service and dedication of officers and staff from Warwickshire Police as well as members of the public was recognised at a special 160th Anniversary Awards Ceremony at the Town Hall in Leamington Spa on Thursday evening, 9 November 2017.

These included Chief Constables Commendations for DS Collette O'Keefe,CPS Lawyer Lisa Windridge (West Midlands Region),Police Staff Investigator (PSI) Mark Truman and PSI Andrew Gallacher,DC Kate Jackson,DC Hazel Charlton,and member of police staff Michele Callaghan, for their role in bringing a perpetrator of child sexual exploitation to justice.

The investigation started in November 2015 into a 38 year old male grooming a 15 year old female victim online, and subquently meeting and committing sexual offences against her. The investigation originated from Rotherham with South Yorkshire Police leading the case.

A large number of media devices were seized upon the initial arrest of the male. These devices were examined and showed a pattern of disturbing behaviour and targetting of further victims.

In July 2016 Warwickshire Police took ownership of the investigation as the male was living in Leamington Spa. The investigation developed into a serious and complex Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) case. Warwickshire police utilised the CSE team to conduct the investigation which required a specialist dedicated resource in order to build relationships with the victims and deal with the volume of data. The team identified 13 victims resulting in 56 indictments.

Detective Constable Hazel Charlton became officer in the case. She worked closely with Detective Constable Kate Jackson in order to visit and obtain accounts from each of the victims. They went above and beyond in this case showing tenacity, diligence and considerable commitment to the task often working late and on their rest days, overcoming many challenges, methodically collating a large amount of evidence from many sources and presenting a detailed and effective prosecution file. They formed effective relationships with several of the young people to elicit key evidence and again showed resilience to retain their support for court.

Analyst Michele Callaghan took over as the main analyst in the investigation from October 2016. She overcame significant obstacles in relation to the downloaded material from the male's devices. She provided a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the case and assisted in identifying further victims promptly. She worked within a strict timescale showing tenacity and dedication to the investigation.

Police staff investigator Mark Truman and Police staff investigator Andrew Gallacherworked together to review all of the downloaded material from the media devices. There were over 30 devices that required examination. They both worked methodically through each device which involved viewing large amounts of indecent material and images of children. They worked dilligently over several months processing the images and catagorising them and identifying further victims leading to successful outcomes.

Detective Sergeant Collette O'Keefe took on role of Senior Investigating Officer for this complex and challenging investigation. She recognised the risk to the organisation and agreed to take ownership of the case from South Yorkshire Police. Through her effective decision making and leadership of the investigation team she was able to quickly identify fast track actions which led to the early arrest of the male for serious sexual offences resulting in his remand in custody in September 2017. She was able to overcome significant obstacles with victims around the country, managing other professionals and implementing strategies in order to build a case within strict custody time limits. She challenged decisions around trafficking offences and successfully negotiated trafficking charges for four victims. This was a first for Warwickshire Police and resulted in a successful conviction for one charge of trafficking providing a flavour of the perpetrators offending. Sufficient evidence was ultimately secured after an 11 month investigation to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Crown prosecution lawyer Lisa Windridge was the allocated advisor for the police operation. She provided early advice to the team and within days of the initial meeting she was providing out of hours advice from home surpassing our expectations and showing support and dedication to the investigation resulting in the initial charges and remand of the perpetrator. Throughout the case she made herself available for regular consultation and direction. She played a key role in obtaining the guilty plea for 40 out of 56 indictments at the earliest opportunity.

A strong evidential case was built and put before the court which led to the perpetrator pleading guilty to 40 out of 56 indictments for 10 victims. He was sentenced on 12th May 2017 to a total of 15 years in prison and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.

At the conclusion of the trial Judge Lockhart commented, "This has been a wide-ranging investigation. It has taken itself to the USA. It has taken itself to Chesterfield, to Bath, to Essex, to the local area, to London. It has been brought together in my view in a wholly expert and timely way. I would wish for a commendation to be made to all of the officers and to the Crown Prosecution lawyers, the service lawyers who have been involved and a transcript of these remarks should be available at public expense to the head Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service of the West Midlands and to the Chief Constable of Warwickshire."

Speaking afterwards, Chief Constable, Martin Jelley, paid tribute to the award winners.

He said: "In our 160th Anniversary year, I am incredibly proud to have been able to present these awards in recognition of the hard work and dedication of not only our officers, staff, and special constables but also of members of the public.

"As a force, we do everything we can to protect our communities from harm and I'm delighted to hear some of the extraordinary efforts of those who have gone above and beyond while in the line of duty.

"It is also wonderful to have the opportunity to recognise brave members of public and I would like to congratulate them, along with everyone else for their actions.

"All the recipients are thoroughly deserving of their awards and I am delighted to recognise these achievements."

Warwickshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe, added:

"These awards evenings are always uplifting and inspiring occasions.

"It's very pleasing to see the hard work and dedication of officers and police staff being recognised, alongside members of the public who have shown great courage in moments of adversity.

"I offer my congratulations to each and every person who received an award."

Photos from the evening

Please follow this link to view the 37 images from the evening directly on flickr

Please click here for information on other awards presented during the evening


Published 24/11/17