Top manager in police misconduct unit part of failed sex abuse doctor probe
PUBLISHED: 06:18 29 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:01 29 December 2017
Norfolk Police/Antony Kelly
A high-ranking detective who played a key role in a deeply-flawed investigation into a police doctor’s sexual abuse of female officers is working as a senior manager in the force’s professional standards department, we can reveal today.
The man, who we are not naming for legal reasons, was part of Norfolk Constabulary’s widely-criticised investigation into police doctor Hugh O’Neill, called Operation Parrott, in 2002 and 2003.
Upon retiring in a senior rank, he was allowed to return as a senior manager in Norfolk police’s Professional Standards Department (PSD).
But an independent review led by Essex Police into the failings of the O’Neill case found earlier this year he had a case to answer for “failing to act with due diligence”.
That finding was then dismissed by Norfolk Police’s deputy chief constable Nick Dean.
The PSD upholds police standards by investigating complaints against officers accused of misconduct or corruption. Today a victim of O’Neill described the decision to allow the retired former detective to work as a senior manager in PSD as “unbelievable”.
As revealed by this newspaper, an investigation earlier this year by Essex Police into Norfolk Constabulary’s failures in the O’Neill case branded elements of Operation Parrott as “farcical”.
It found those involved set out to disprove allegations from victims that they were sexually assaulted by O’Neill during force medical examinations. They even failed to arrest the police doctor when he was being questioned.
Other failings included some of O’Neill’s victims not being interviewed and a failure to pass on key evidence to medical experts and prosecutors which could have stopped his abuse.
It was the second time Norfolk Police had failed to properly investigate complaints by female officers against O’Neill.
Allegations about him were first made by officers in 1993 but dismissed. It meant he continued as a Norfolk Police doctor until 2003, when he was dismissed.
But the Constabulary kept the full extent of his abuse of more than 30 female officers secret.
He was allowed to carry on as a family GP in Horsford until 2015 when he was finally convicted and jailed for 12 years for rape unconnected to his police role.
In 2016 he was jailed for a further three years for sexually assaulting female police officers.
As reported last month, 33 female officers have now made allegations against O’Neill and have been paid almost £270,000 by the Constabulary.
The Essex Police investigation, called Operation Stornoway, began in 2016 and was released earlier this year after O’Neill was finally prosecuted.
It found the manager at PSD, who was a senior detective in 2003, as well as two other retired officers, had a case to answer for “failing to act with due diligence” in Operation Parrott.
One of O’Neill’s victims said she had raised the issue of the PSD manager’s involvement with Norfolk’s chief constable Simon Bailey.
“In a meeting of May 2016, I asked Simon Bailey why he (the manager) wasn’t suspended while the Essex investigation was taking place, bearing in mind there could have been criminal charges coming out of that investigation.
“He said the manager was working in PSD but in a different role and was being kept completely separate from the investigation.”
But the victim added: “It’s unbelievable that he remained in his PSD post. It is surely normal practice to suspend someone under these circumstances, so why wasn’t he?”
Operation Stornoway found that three officers, who are all now retired, had a case to answer for “failing to act with due diligence”, during Operation Parrott in 2002 and 2003.
DCC Nick Dean from Norfolk Police was then asked earlier this year to look at the Operation Stornoway report and decide whether the three retired officers had a case to answer for misconduct.
He agreed two of the retired officers had a possible case to answer for misconduct, but as the officers are retired, no further action could be taken.
But he dismissed the opinion of the Essex Police investigator that the third retired officer, who is now working as a senior manager in PSD, had a case to answer for “failing to act with due diligence”.
A Norfolk Police spokesman said it was common in such cases for the police to take a different view to the investigator.
“The roles of the investigator, in this case Essex Serious Crime Directorate, and the Appropriate Authority, DCC Nick Dean, respectively, have distinct and separate responsibilities,” the spokesman said.
“It is not uncommon for the Appropriate Authority to take a different view than that of an investigator
“The investigator provides an opinion, not formal recommendations. The Appropriate Authority then determines separately whether there is a case to answer.
“Within the bounds of the regulations applicable to any such case involving retired officers, whether there is a case to answer or not, there is nothing that allows misconduct procedures to be taken to any formal hearing stage.
“This is equally applicable to any former officer who now works for the police service in a civilian capacity.”
•Read Essex Police’s damning report into Norfolk’s handling of the O’Neill case here
•The police doctor and the Freemasons
Victims of O’Neill raised concerns that one reason their allegations against him in both 1993 and 2002/03 were not properly investigated by Norfolk Police was down to “social connections”.
They alleged that those “social connections” between O’Neill and senior officers, centred on the Freemasons.
The Essex Police investigation into Norfolk Police’s handling on the case said: “Concern has been raised by a number of witnesses regarding social connections.”
But it found there was “no evidence” of any social connections between O’Neill and the officers who investigated him.
O’Neill was a Freemason but the Provincial Grand Lodge of Norfolk Freemasons said he only joined a Masonic Lodge in 2005 – two years after he had been dismissed as a police doctor and after the failed investigations into him.
He resigned in 2014, when he was convicted of two rapes.
A spokesman for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Norfolk Freemasons confirmed O’Neill joined the Bishop Herbert Lodge in Drayton in April 2005 and resigned in December 2014
O’Neill also joined the Norfolk Farmers Lodge in February 2010 and resigned in December 2014.
The spokesman said: “Mr O’Neill has severed all links with Freemasonry both in Norfolk and throughout the country.
“The Head of Norfolk Freemasonry, Stephen Allen, was shocked and appalled by the offences committed by Mr O’Neill.
“Criminal activity is completely unacceptable within the organisation and totally alien to our values.”