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IOPC considers reopening inquiry into Stephen Port failings

The IOPC is considering reopening its investigation after an inquest jury found the mistakes of Met officers “probably” contributed to the deaths of Stephen Port’s victims

No officers were disciplined following an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation which finished three years ago and five have since been promoted.

IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said the IOPC had been assessing whether to reopen their investigation, which they can do when there are “compelling reasons to do so”, arising from new information and when there is a public interest to do so.

Sexual predator  Stephen Port plied first victim Anthony Walgate with a fatal dose of date-rape drug GHB and dumped his body.

Port struck three more times before he was caught, killing each of his young, gay, male victims in near-identical circumstances.

Jurors at the inquests into the deaths of Mr Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and 25-year-old Jack Taylor, concluded that police failings “probably” contributed to the deaths of victims, all of whom were unlawfully killed.

Civil claims have been lodged by relatives against the force.

Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball apologised to the loved ones of all the victims over the way the investigations were mishandled.

She said: “Our thoughts are with everybody who loved Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor, we are so sorry for their loss.

“And we’re also deeply sorry, I want to give my own and the Met’s deepest apologies that there were failings in the police response to the murders.

“It has been clear, and we have said for a long time, that we didn’t respond as we should have done.

“All those who loved Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack expected a professional and a thorough police investigation into their deaths.

“And it’s hugely disappointing to me and everybody at the Met, that that didn’t happen.”

Loved ones of the four men have accused the Met of homophobia in the way that it bungled the investigations.

Senior staff admit there was a lack of knowledge about the use of GHB as a weapon, and that confidence in the force among the LGBT community has been rocked, but would not accept that officers were prejudiced against gay men.

Ms Ball said: “I don’t think the Met is institutionally homophobic. I do think we had failings in our investigations."

Seventeen officers were investigated by the IOPC in an inquiry that ended in August 2018 and nine were found to have performance failings.

Seven of these received feedback from their manager. One of those also received informal learning for another related matter.

The remaining two officers were subject to formal unsatisfactory performance procedures and attended meetings to discuss their performance and appropriate action going forward.

No case to answer was found for the remaining eight officers in terms of misconduct. However, one of those eight officers underwent informal learning to improve their practice.

The IOPC said all but one officer gave no comment interviews and provided written responses to investigators.

“We are examining if anything was said by the officers who gave evidence during the inquests which could alter our findings and give grounds to re-open our investigation.” 

In an interview with the PA news agency, Ms Ball said officers did not show “sufficient professional curiosity, that staple of good investigation that you get behind the facts as they seem to be presenting to you and you examine them really closely”.

“And also, there’s some inquiries that should have been made and weren’t made at all, some weren’t made as quickly as they needed to be. We’ve made great changes in both areas to make sure this sort of thing could not happen again.”

In the local area around Barking there are more detectives; there are six LGBT officers who advise on hate crime investigations; they hold regular meetings with community representatives and charities; and an LGBT independent advisory group has been set up to scrutinise how the area is policed.

The local and specialist investigation teams have been restructured so that they work more closely together, each local area has an intelligence team with access to key police databases, and there are more trained senior investigating officers – in 2015 the Met had 40, now they have 135.

The Deputy Mayor of London Sophie Linden has also written to  Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to ask for a review to make sure sufficient changes have been made in investigative practices.

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