Two former Essex Police Detective Constables have been jailed after they were found guilty of misconduct in public office.

Lee Pollard was sentenced to two years imprisonment and Sharon Patterson was jailed for 18 months on Friday, May 10, at London’s Old Bailey following a trial in March.

During the trial the court heard both individuals faced charges regarding alleged failings in relation to investigations they were responsible for.

They were both working in the North Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) between 2011 and 2014.

Jurors were told both officers had falsified documents and Pollard had also destroyed evidence.

The jury found Patterson guilty of one count of misconduct in public office and Pollard was found guilty of two counts of misconduct in public office.

Following the sentencing, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet, said: “We welcome the conclusion of these criminal proceedings.

“We hope it sends a clear message to the people of Essex that their police force will root out criminality and tackle it even in those very rare cases, such as this, where they may involve our own staff.

The trial formed is part of an investigation overseen by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) which began in February 2015, called Operation Maple.

Chief Constable Prophet added: “Whilst today’s sentence brings about a conclusion to Operation Maple, we will never lose sight of the fact that at the heart of this issue were a number of victims that we let down.”

“We hope that they accept our apologies but more importantly we hope they and the public of Essex accept our reassurance that once these issues came to light, we acted immediately to tackle them.

“We continue to invest in training our specialist officers and staff who work within public protection, to ensure they give victims of these horrific crimes the best possible service.”

In 2013 an internal review of workloads and case progress identified issues with the effectiveness of several investigations into allegations of child abuse carried out by some officers in CAIT.

As this review progressed, cases investigated between 2011 and 2014 were scrutinised, discovering Essex Police referred itself to the IOPC.

The investigation was conducted by Norfolk and Suffolk Police’s joint Professional Standards Department under the direction and control of the IOPC.

Looking at failings in recent and non-recent child abuse investigations, the IOPC investigation looked at 55 cases in total.

As a result of Operation Maple, 30 officers were subject to investigation.

Eight officers were subject to management action, seven were found to have no case to answer and five officers retired or resigned when the investigation began.

Five officers including Pollard and Patterson, were also found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct, two left the force prior to action being taken.

One officer was dismissed and two were found to have criminal cases to answer.

Following the conclusion of the trial, Patterson, who was still a serving officer, was dismissed without notice following a misconduct hearing.

Pollard was dismissed in 2015 for an unrelated matter.

As soon as Essex Police identified these issues an immediate action plan was put into place.

This included bringing in additional detectives and civilian investigators to public protection and new measures ensuring investigations are reviewed on a regular basis by supervisors to the high standards expected.

New monitoring systems across all CAIT teams are now closely assessed and educating frontline officers and staff about dealing with vulnerable victims was also enforced.

These areas have since been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services who assessed Essex Police as ‘good’.