A police officer whose failure to disclose evidence led to the collapse of two trials over chemsex drug dealing is under criminal investigation.
Detective Constable Jane Walker was the lead officer in an investigation into an alleged drugs ring operating in Brighton and London charged with supplying drugs for sex parties – known as chemsex.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Australia, led to two trials – but the first collapsed after it was revealed that 32 discs of security footage from banks had not been viewed, logged, disclosed or served in evidence by DC Walker.
In that trial, Pamela Ivanov from London and five Brighton men – Ryan Nelson, Storrm Bowman, Mark Green, Kennady O’Rourke, and Paul Russell – all denied various charges of dealing crystal meth, GBH, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and mescaline.
A linked trial, of Paul Harrendence, 52, of Sussex Heights, Brighton, who was accused of dealing crystal meth and GBH, did not proceed as a result.
The judge at the first trial was told that DC Walker had not been dishonest and the rest of her investigation had been thorough and professional.
But she has been taken off active duties and is under criminal investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
A spokesman said: “We can confirm a detective constable is subject to a criminal investigation by the IOPC in relation to perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
“They will also be investigated for gross misconduct.
“A criminal investigation does not mean that charges will necessarily follow.”
The first trial collapsed last May after it emerged, in an email conversation between DC Walker and a civilian police colleague Tanya Smith, that the discs had not been viewed, reviewed, scheduled or disclosed.
The trial was halted and a retrial ordered, which was to have taken place in October 2019. DC Walker was removed from the investigation, and work began to rebuild the case again from scratch under Detective Sergeant Mark Pinder with the help of a civilian disclosure officer.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the various defendants submitted an abuse of process application and a hearing was held in July.
During the hearing, the defence said that DC Walker’s actions were apparently dishonest and potentially criminal and could have gone beyond what was documented in the emails.
They cited concerns not just over disclosure but also failures of officers to complete search records properly and record conversations and issues around searches carried out at Ivanov’s London addresses.
The court was then told that DC Walker was not suspended but had been taken off active duties and was being investigated for gross misconduct and potentially criminal charges.
The prosecution said that DC Walker was not dishonest and the rest of the case was thorough and professional.
But Judge Shani Barnes said that this missed the point and questioned why she was not being told more about how the mistake happened.
She said: “I am confronted by an officer in the case admitting in writing that there were discs in a box with surveillance unseen, unscheduled, undisclosed.
“The attitude she expressed in writing – and, I repeat, I am to get no other evidence on oath or other explanation – reveals a cavalier, dismissive attitude to her duties as a responsible disclosure officer.
“She was, on the face of the emails, disinterested in fulfilling her obligation to ensure that all material was viewed, scheduled and, where appropriate, provided to the defence.
“Her rather casual view that there was unlikely to be anything of evidential value is unprofessional. The officer deliberately left these discs off any schedule.
“She was busy, she indicates, on another case, but instead of viewing them just prior to the trial or asking a junior officer to do so, she chose to ask a civilian colleague to conceal the fact of their existence despite knowing that Miss Smith ordered the collection of these discs from various banks.
“This is, on the face of this document, a serious act of misconduct, in my view, without further explanation.
“Those who are investigated and prosecuted for serious crime must be able to know that those investigations are conducted by persons of the highest integrity.
“Juries listening to evidence must be able to trust officers on oath … The case has been brought into question because of the actions of that officer.
“The defence ask me not to allow another adjournment and to say that this is an abuse of the process. The prosecution say this is not a case of bad faith.
“The prosecution urge me that there is a strong public interest to continue, even though they acknowledge that she failed in her duty and that her conduct is in question.
“It is my judgment that this case has been tainted by the conduct of the officer in the case and, on the evidence provided, it remains an affront to this court’s sense of justice and propriety that it should be allowed to continue as proposed by the prosecution.
“If the officer in the case can reveal so little judgment and propriety in her position of responsibility, it would undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system if I allowed it to go unchecked.”
A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “We can confirm that this matter was referred to the IOPC for investigation. In the circumstances we are not in position to comment further at this time.”
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “In relation to the case of Paul Harrendence, we offered no evidence in the case, as there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
“The other case was stayed for abuse of process. Both cases came to an end for different reasons.
“We have no further comment to make on either case.”