Police Face Hearing Over Failures In Sex Attack Inquiry

Colliers Wood man committed up to 100 crimes

Three senior Scotland Yard officers are to face misconduct proceedings over the investigation into the crimes of Colliers Wood sex attacker Kirk Reid.

The officers did not prioritise the attacks which Reid carried out on lone women on the A24 near Balham and Tooting Bec underground stations, concluded The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Reid, who lived in Cavendish Road, was jailed for life last year for 27 sexual offences. But he was suspected to be responsible for up to a further 100 crimes from 2001-2008.

The IPCC found that the three officers, a superintendent and two inspectors, did not give priority to the inquiry into the sex attacks while they concentrated on other crimes, such as robberies, street crime and burglary. They now face a "Full Powers Misconduct Panel" and could lose their jobs.

Reid (left) was identified as a potential suspect in 2004, but his DNA was not taken to compare DNA recovered from two victims. The IPCC also found the superintendent cleared more than 50 files off his desk in December 2005, telling a more junior officer he did not want to see them back.

In January 2008 a decision was made to allocate the series to the Specialist Crime Directorate (SCD 1) of the Metropolitan Police Service. Within three days of this re-allocation, Reid was arrested.

Deborah Glass, the IPCC Commission for London, said: "The failure to take a serial sex offender off the streets of London years earlier is a shameful chapter in the history of the Metropolitan Police. That is damaging not only for victims, but for the many dedicated officers who have worked hard to make a difference.

"The lack of resources allocated to the investigation, pressure in relation to performance and targets, and the constant change of heads of department undoubtedly did not help.

“But in my view none of these factors provides real mitigation for the sustained failure by senior supervisory officers to give this investigation the priority it required and to get a grip on what was plainly a long-standing pattern of terrifying offences committed within a single borough.”

A chief superintendent and a detective sergeant also received formal “words of advice” following the IPCC investigation.

Reid, aged 45, a children's football coach and chef at Camberwell College, lived a 'double life' often stalking his victims as they got off buses from central London in Balham, Tooting and Battersea.

He used his knowledge of the local streets and the public transport system to help target dozens of his victims. Some would be attacked on his way home from refereeing at night, others were in the early hours of the morning.

Richard Tracey, London Assembly member for Merton and Wandsworth, said after the IPCC's verdict: "I have fought for this review and am glad that disciplinary action is finally being taken. This case revealed a staggering level of incompetence on the part the Met. It is also very worrying that sexual assaults were never even a priority in the borough and officers felt pressured to deal with other targets. 

“I realise that police have recently changed their response to sexual offences, but what this case reveals is that the whole structure of how police are meant to tackle these cases is wrong; so I very much hope that some serious lessons have been learnt. I shall be raising this matter with the Mayor."

June 28, 2010