'How attitudes of police left paedophile rock star Ian Watkins free to abuse'

Rock star Ian Watkins, lead singer of the band Lostprophets, sold records by the millions and had thousands of adoring fans. But he was also an evil paedophile.

Police failings allowed Ian Watkins to abuse children.
Police failings allowed Ian Watkins to abuse children.

The way his case was dealt with by police in Yorkshire and Wales raises troubling questions over how investigations into celebrities are handled – and how forces treat witnesses trying to expose abuse.

In court, I represented Joanne Mjadzelics, a former partner of Watkins who repeatedly tried to warn police about his crimes but was instead ignored, warned about harrassing him and even, extraordinarily, eventually prosecuted herself over the very images she had tried to give officers as evidence.

Watkins was sentenced to 35 years in jail in 2013 for his depraved sex attacks on children and babies. But justice came years after Ms Mjadzelics had been warning them about exactly what he was doing.

She did everything to expose his crimes but was ignored by a number of different police forces.

After his conviction she received a phone call from the authorities which thanked and praised her for her assistance. They said that without her they “couldn’t have got him”. But if they had taken her seriously, the abuse could have been stopped years earlier.

She really had been the wrong sort of informer. Her background was unsteady. She was even warned a number of times about her “harassment” of Watkins.

In a police memo the contest was described as between “a famous rock star and a former escort who had been sectioned”. She had never been sectioned, but at the heart of police incompetence and bias was a failure to check information.

For years, she had written to various authorities who should have cared, Child Protection, the Association of Chief Police Officers. She visited her local police station in Doncaster time after time. She arranged appointments there asking them to make available a child protection officer.

She carried a laptop there to show an image of a child sent by Watkins – stopping abuse there and then was within their reach, as a subsequent investigation by the police watchdog the IPCC has ruled.

But rather than the images being examined by an appropriate professional, instead she was accused of pursuing a personal revenge mission against Watkins.

He was only brought to justice after an execution of a drugs warrant in September 2012 revealed his involvement in sexual abuse when his computers were seized and examined. It came after warnings from Miss Mjadzelics and five other individuals to South Wales Police had gone unheeded.

After Watkins’ trial, Joanne struggled to come to terms with all the opportunities she had offered the police to stop him. She began to talk about it more publicly, becoming a noisy and inconvenient voice.

But instead of admitting their mistakes, police charged Miss Mjadzelics with possessing child pornography images.

As her QC, I saw the prosecution of her as an affront to the integrity of the criminal justice system, an attempt to cover up the disgraceful inaction by various police forces.

The jury agreed and in early 2015, she was found not guilty of all charges.

I have seen so many shifts of attitude over the years towards victims and whistleblowers. I remember the days, not so long ago, when a complainant would be judged by her clothes and her drinking. I watched with interest the pursuit of the other extreme when there was an official policy of “automatic belief” of every victim, which caused its own problems.

I would settle for adherence to the following approach – a good investigator will go and test the accuracy of allegations and evidence with an open mind, supporting a complainant through the process. That was not how South Yorkshire Police behaved in this case.

Their response to criticism from the IPCC – an apparently-sincere and detailed apology to Ms Mjadzelics – is both promising and in stark contrast with South Wales Police, who are yet to say sorry to her for failings by officers.

However, it is disappointing to note that while the IPCC found three officers involved in Miss Mjadzelics’ case in South Yorkshire had grounds to answer cases for gross misconduct, the retirements of all three of them saves them from facing disciplinary investigation.

Timely retirement is a well-established escape route for police officers accused of misconduct.

It is hoped that this case is a salutary lesson for officers involved in investigating allegations against celebrities – evidence of wrongdoing must not be dismissed out of hand, no matter the high profile of the alleged perpetrator, nor the difficult background of the accuser.

Michael Wolkind is a QC at 2 Bedford Row Chambers.

The website of Michael Wolkind QC is: https:www.topcriminalqc.co.uk '‹

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