COUNTY NEWS: Detective’s failure over abuse allegations was ‘gross misconduct’

The two day hearing took place at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes
The two day hearing took place at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes

A police detective who failure to properly report allegations of child abuse made by three girls amounted to gross misconduct.

DC Celia MacDonald, 49, resigned her post days before she was called to appear before a disciplinary panel yesterday.

She had been based at the Horsham Safeguarding Unit (SIU).

In her absence the panel at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes today found that her failures amounted to gross misconduct, the force announced this evening.

Detective Superintendent Steve Boniface, head of Sussex Police’s Professional Standards Department, said: “Protecting vulnerable people is a priority for Sussex Police and while this was an unusual occurrence, it is still one that we take extremely seriously.

“We expect the highest possible standards of our officers and staff and where their conduct falls below these standards they will be robustly investigated.

“Safeguarding of the public is an absolute priority for Sussex Police.

“DC MacDonald’s failure to perform her duty correctly potentially put vulnerable people at risk, although fortunately this case did come back to our notice and remains under investigation.”

On the first day of the hearing yesterday, the panel heard how DC MacDonald closed the investigation when she should have known not to.

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The accusation against the detective centered around a visit to talk to two girls following an allegation of sexual assault.

DC MacDonald dealt with a referral involving allegations of sexual abuse on children within a family in West Sussex.

Initial actions included a joint visit with social services, but following that DC MacDonald decided that there was no criminality, did not record a crime or undertake any further investigation and handed the case back to social services, police said.

A year later, the same family came to notice again and the matter came to light, leading to an IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct)-led investigation into the officer’s actions.

DC MacDonald, who retired from Sussex Police on June 10, did not appear at the public gross misconduct hearing yesterday and today.

The panel found DC MacDonald’s failures amounted to gross misconduct due to a breach of standards of professional behaviour, police announced.

The hearing was adjourned until an unspecified date to consider what sanction would have been applied if she had still have been a serving officer.

Det Sup Boniface added: “The finding is supported by Sussex Police and highlights our determination not bring into disrepute the enormous amount of good work carried out day-to-day by thousands of hard-working and enormously dedicated police officers and staff.”