THE police watchdog yesterday released a damning verdict on a force's handling of a sex criminal who murdered teenager Ashleigh Hall.
Peter Chapman, 32, posed as a handsome young man on social networking site Facebook to lure 17-year-old Ashleigh, from Darlington, to her death. Her body was found in a farmer’s field near Sedgefield, Co Durham, in October 2009.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has concluded that inadequate staffing levels resulted in the poor management of registered sex offender Chapman by Merseyside Police, who were meant to be keeping tabs on him.
After realising he had vanished from his Kirkby home early in 2009, they left it nine months before issuing a national wanted alert.
The report found one lone woman PC was responsible for monitoring 60 sex offenders, including Chapman, and was making visits in her own car due to lack of resources. She was later seconded to a murder investigation for six weeks, leaving no one to monitor him.
The report says that, as a high risk offender, Chapman should have been visited at least every three months but the officer in charge of monitoring him visited only three times in 21 months. Despite this, his assessment was wrongly downgraded from high risk to medium.
The report says: “There is no record of Chapman being visited around the time of this risk assessment. The IPCC investigation has found that this risk assessment was not carried out correctly.
“A sex offender would normally be assessed on two scales – one on a sexual risk scale and one on a violence risk scale. In this instance Chapman appears only to have been assessed on the sexual scale.” IPCC Commissioner Naseem Malik said: “It is evident from our investigation that this particular sex offender unit was inadequately resourced and as a result the officer tasked with managing sex offenders in the community had an impossible task...
“I fully appreciate that irrespective of the failings in monitoring, Chapman may well have enacted his plan anyway. Only 24-hour a day monitoring could ensure prevention of such acts.
“However it is evident workloads appear to have resulted in a slow-time response to something which required urgent action.” The report is the second by the watchdog this year to criticise failings by police. In February the IPCC found “serious flaws” in the use of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system. ANPR “hits” were recorded by police forces in Durham, North Yorkshire and Cleveland between October 23 and 26. He was arrested by Cleveland Police following these hits.
Ashleigh’s mother, Andrea, has called for tighter monitoring of sex offenders.
The 41-year-old from Darlington, County Durham, said after reading the report: “It’s absolutely shocking. It was heartbreaking when they handed it me.
“If they had done their job properly and managed him properly, and he had not gone missing for a year, he would never have got anywhere near my daughter. I knew the report was going to be bad but this was worse than we thought.”