Police ‘overlooked’ child sex abuse case

| 02/08/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Justice Tim Owen QC

(CNS): The failure of the police to take any action for more than 18 months on a neglected child abuse investigation was queried Tuesday by the judge hearing the case. But Detective Constable Dave Howell was unable to explained why the case just appeared to be dropped and “inadvertently overlooked” by the RCIPS Family Support Unit for such a long time. Two local men aged 21 and 38 who are on trial accused of the attempted rape and indecent assault of a young girl were not interviewed by police until more than 20 months after their 11-year-old relative made the allegations.

As he gave evidence, DC Howell said that he had been the first person on the case as he was on call with the FSU when the child and two relatives turned up at George Town Police Station to make the complaint in November 2012. He said he spoke with the little girl and her family for about an hour and had taken notes. But those notes had apparently been lost following an office move by the unit, the court heard.

A few days later he and another detective from the FSU interviewed the child on video. After completing those videos documenting the allegations the girl made against the men, who were 17 and 34 at the time, the police constable said the case should have been assigned to a lead investigator by Detective Sergeant Doris Morris, who headed up the FSU, but that never happened.

Describing the case as “inadvertently stalled” because no officer was ever assigned for more than 18 months when at some point someone realized that nothing had been done about the case and Howell was told to pick up the investigation.

Justice Timothy Owen, who is hearing the case without a jury, repeatedly asked DC Howell to explain how the case could have “gone to sleep” for so long and what had happened after the evidence was recorded of the child making such serious allegations. But Howell could not explain why the case was neglected until out of the blue the case was handed to him in 2014, when he then re-interviewed the young girl and then the two defendants.

“It wasn’t assigned to me so I inadvertently overlooked it,” Howell told the court. But the judge asked, “How can you inadvertently overlook serious allegations of sexual assault by a child?” The officer said that “it went dormant” and he was not able to help the court understand how the case was dropped for over 18 months.

He also admitted that by the time he picked up the case in May 2014 and began re-investigating, many witnesses were no longer in Cayman and some who were still here refused to give interviews, stating they did not want to get involved, the officer said. Other witnesses, especially other family members who lived in the home, have been overlooked in the case and were never formally interviewed.

The defendants were finally asked about the allegations by Howell in interviews in July 2014, when both men denied ever touching the child.

During his time in the witness box the detective was asked about the child’s mother, as she had been viewed as a suspect because she had left the child alone with the men, even though the girl had made the allegations of sexual abuse.

When DC Howell finally passed the case file to the prosecution service for a decision, he also recommended that the mother be charged with cruelty and neglect, but the public prosecutor did not sign off on the charge.

In her own evidence the child claimed that she had told her mother about the abuse long before she told an after-school volunteer. She told police that her mother had said she would speak to the relatives involved, after which the abuse stopped for a short time, but it started again.

The young girl told a school counsellor that the men had been abusing her for some time, forcing her to suck their penises on numerous occasions and that on a few occasions they had attempted to have sex with her as well. After she made the allegations to the school staff member, her mother was contacted and the child reported that her mother had hit her because she had told the school about the abuse.

Soon after the allegation was made the child was removed from her mother and the house where she was being abused and was taken in by another female relative.

Both men have denied the allegations.

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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