A DETECTIVE has been disciplined after handing back a computer containing indecent images to a suspect who was later jailed for a string of sex offences.

The Indepedent Office for Police Conduct launched an investigation after Essex Police referred itself to the watchdog following possible breaches during a child abuse probe.

In November 2012, Paul 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 contained indecent images.

The computers were handed back to Ashbury in August 2013.

Essex Police decided to take no further action against him.

Ashbury, now 53, from Kings Lynn, was arrested by Norfolk Police in October 2017 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in January last year after admitting multiple offences including rape, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child and making indecent photographs of a child.

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.

It was found that a detective constable had a case to answer for misconduct after computers containing indecent images were handed back to a suspect.

However, the same officer did not have a case to answer for misconduct in relation to allegation he failed to investigate the alleged offence properly in 2012.

Essex Police agreed with the findings of the IOPC and the detective has now received management action.

The IOPC also concluded that a supervising officer of detective sergeant rank did not have a case to answer for misconduct.

IOPC regional director for the south east Sarah Green said she was satisfied the investigation has led to the right outcome.

She said: “These were serious allegations which required full and independent oversight.

“Essex Police concurred with our assessment and one officer has now received management action.”

The case is the latest in a string of failings by officers relating to child abusive investigations.

Last week, former detectives Sharon Patterson, 49, and Lee Pollard, 47, were jailed for 18 months and two years respectively after being convicted of misconduct in public office.

The Old Bailey heard the couple, of Littlefield, Road, Colchester, forged documents, concealed evidence and lied about investigations out of laziness and cynical disdain”for vulnerable victims between 2011 and 2014.

The pair had blamed administrative chaos at the child abuse unit in Colchester where they both worked for their errors.