Hampshire Chief constable Andy Marsh accused over investigation into Stanbridge Earls School

Chief constable Andy Marsh

Chief constable Andy Marsh

First published in Education
Last updated
Hampshire Chronicle: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Eastleigh Chief Reporter

THE Daily Echo can today reveal the full explosive details of an investigation into Hampshire’s top police officer.

The chief constable of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Andy Marsh, is facing a police probe from a separate force into claims he ordered a whitewash over the failure of police investigations into shocking sex abuse allegations at a Hampshire special school.

He is also accused of breaching confidentiality and contempt of court in connection with the same inquiry.

The complaints centre on Hampshire police’s investigation into allegations that a girl was raped and other pupils were sexually abused at the former Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, which closed last year.

The full extent of the inquiry into Mr Marsh can be revealed for the first time today after the details of Essex Police’s investigation – named Operation Oregon – were leaked to the Daily Echo.

Their investigation is being carried out on behalf of Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Hayes – which is understood to be the first time a UK PCC has ordered a probe of its own chief constable.

The document shows how Mr Marsh is being probed over NINE complaints.

These include:

• A failure to undertake a thorough investigation into the sexual abuse of vulnerable pupils.

• As a result, a failure to protect a vulnerable child from harm.

• Giving “instructions” to officers that were designed to “mislead” parents of alleged victims.

• Leaking details of alleged victims.

Some of these relate to Operation Flamborough – an inquiry set up by Hampshire police after claims Stanbridge Earls failed to properly protect a vulnerable child who claimed to have been raped by fellow pupils.

Mr Marsh is being investigated over claims he told his boss, Mr Hayes pictured right, that the operation was “established to protect Hampshire Constabulary’s reputation”.

He is also facing claims that he leaked details of a criminal investigation and details of alleged rape victims to Caroline Nokes, the MP for Romsey and Southampton North, as well as to Hampshire County Council.

There is no suggestion that the authority or Mrs Nokes are under investigation.

The probe also focuses on whether officers from Hampshire police were instructed to “mislead” parents of alleged victims into thinking Operation Flamborough was an investigation into the sexual abuse of children.

When the Daily Echo revealed last year that Mr Marsh was under investigation, spokesmen from Hampshire Constabulary and Mr Hayes’s office said they were aware of a complaint that had been made and that it would be inappropriate to comment further.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal found last year that the £39,000-a-year school had discriminated against a girl and that staff members failed to tell the youngster’s parents that she had complained of pain in an intimate part of her body.

The tribunal found that a vulnerable youngster had suffered “appalling abuse” at the hands of another student, while the school was slammed by panel members for being “unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate” when it came to protecting the youngster.

Part of Operation Flamborough was to involve an internal inquiry into whether police involved in previous investigations into sex abuse claims at the school should be disciplined.

Mr Marsh was appointed in January last year to take over as chief constable from Alex Marshall – the same time that details first came to light of allegations that a vulnerable teenager had been groomed and sexually abused at Stanbridge Earls.

Mr Marsh joined Hampshire Constabulary as deputy chief constable in July 2010. When approached by the Daily Echo, Mrs Nokes, pictured left, said she did not intend to comment on the issue and had referred our questions to Essex Police.

A Hampshire County Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that we are aware of Operation Oregon, but are not able to provide any further comments – which should be sought from Essex Constabulary who are undertaking the investigation.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Female staff at troubled school watch boys rock climb naked

Ongoing Controversey

THE revelations are the latest twist in the on-running controversy surrounding Stanbridge Earls.
Details came to light in January 2013 of allegations that a vulnerable teenager had been groomed and sexually abused by another student.

A Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal report said systems which should have protected the girl were “unsystematic, unprofessional, ad hoc and completely inadequate”.

Head teacher Peter Trythall was accused of “a failure of responsibility”.

The report described how the girl went to school staff and it became clear she had been involved in a sexual encounter. Her parents were not informed, and only found out when she told them at a later date.

In the months that followed, the Department of Education called the standard of care at the school “shockingly poor”, but Ofsted bosses had to take disciplinary action against some of their own staff after admitting mistakes were made while investigating the school.

Meanwhile, Hampshire police had set up Operation Flamborough to find out whether there had been “further criminal offences” at the school.

Later, an Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation began into complaints made to Hampshire police concerning their conduct over the abuse allegations.

In August last year, the Daily Echo revealed that chief constable Andy Marsh was under investigation.

The school closed when too few pupils were signed up for the next school year.

Hampshire Chronicle: Caroline NokesCaroline Nokes

The Accusations

IN A letter entitled “Operation Oregon – an investigation into your complaints against Chief Constable Andy Marsh”, Essex Police chief constable Stephen Kavanagh sets out the details of the probe.

Names of people involved have been changed to B, C and D to protect the identities of those
involved.

The letter, which is dated October 17 and headed with the Essex Police logo, sets out how it is
alleged that the chief constable of Hampshire Constabulary:

• Himself disclosed, and/or authorised or instructed a police officer serving with Hampshire
Constabulary to disclose, details of a criminal investigation, specifically details of a victim of alleged rape and/or sexual abuse and other personal data to third parties including; Caroline Nokes, Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North, and Hampshire County Council. It is alleged that in doing so the Chief Constable; (1) breached the complainants’ and, where
applicable, their child’s right to confidentiality, (2) breached the Data Protection Act 1998, and (3) is in contempt of court.

• Prevented a Section 47 of the Children Act 1998 investigation without evaluating the risk to children involved.

• Concealed information from B’s child’s placing authority without evaluating the risk to the child.

• Gave instructions to officers which were designed to mislead two of the complainants, B and C, into thinking that Operation Flamborough was an investigation into the sexual abuse of children, when in fact merely represented a “strategy discussion” to prevent “negative publicity”.

• Informed the PCC that Operation Flamborough was established to protect Hampshire Constabulary’s reputation.

• Ignored his primary duties regarding investigating crime to the detriment of vulnerable children.

• Did not ensure that Operation Flamborough was a thorough investigation into the sexual abuse of female pupils and as a consequence D’s vulnerable child came to harm.

• Failed to protect D’s child from sexual abuse as a direct consequence of his actions.

• Breached C’s role as a possible witness.

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