The Independent Office of Police Conduct is investigating how Essex Police handled a child abuse investigation and handed back electrical devices possibly containing indecent images.

An investigation has begun after it became clear that Essex Police handed back devices to Paul Ashbury that may have contained more than one hundred indecent images.

In November 2012 Ashbury was arrested by Essex Police on suspicion of sexual assault against a child and possessing indecent images.

During the course of that investigation officers seized computers belonging to him which may have contained more than 100 indecent images.

The computers were handed back to Ashbury when in August 2013 Essex Police decided to take no further action against him.

Ashbury, 52, from Kings Lynn, was arrested by Norfolk Police in October 2017 and in January was sentenced to 15 years in prison after admitting multiple offences including rape, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child and making indecent photographs of a child.

A spokesman for the IOPC said: "It appears when Norfolk Police officers examined Ashbury’s laptop they found additional child abuse images which it is believed had not been identified during Essex Police’s investigation.

"Our investigation will examine the conduct of officers from Essex Police’s west child abuse investigation team (CAIT) and whether the investigation into Mr Ashbury was carried out in accordance with Essex Police’s policy, procedures and guidelines."

IOPC Regional Director for the south east Sarah Green said: “These are extremely serious allegations regarding how Essex Police investigated a man who later admitted multiple child sexual offences following the investigation by Norfolk Police.

“We will examine the officers’ actions and what if anything they could have done differently.”