Policeman faces gross misconduct claim over Ian Watkins probe

Updated: 

A police officer is facing disciplinary action after being accused of gross misconduct in relation to his investigation of child sexual abuse claims against Lostprophets lead singer Ian Watkins.

The police misconduct hearing for Detective Sergeant Andrew Whelan, who works for South Wales Police, started at the Waterton Centre in Bridgend, South Wales, on Wednesday with a series of legal arguments.

The charges against Ds Whelan, who was described by his barrister John Beggs QC as a "loyal member of the constabulary" who "continues to serve South Wales Police" were not read out at the hearing.

Mr Beggs accused South Wales Police of abuse of process by failing to provide the defence with the particulars of the allegations and asked for some of them to be struck off.

He pointed to one of the charges, in which Ds Whelan was accused of failing to take any adequate action after he allegedly received information via Crimestoppers in 2010 that Ian Watkins was sexually abusing young children, as an example of the lack of detail in the charges.

Mr Beggs said the charge alleged that Ds Whelan was "aware of at least one of the Crimestoppers logs" but did not give a date for the log or say how Ds Whelan was aware of it.

Watkins was jailed for 29 years in December 2013 with a further six years on licence, after admitting a string of sex offences - including the attempted rape of a fan's baby.

The disgraced singer was arrested in 2012 but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said South Wales Police was given information about Watkins back in 2008 and launched an investigation once the criminal case was finished.

Mr Beggs said 113 particulars relating to part of the charges had been provided on Friday - two working days before the hearing was due to start but that they were "wholly bodged" and "outrageously late".

He said delays on the part of South Wales Police would be a theme of the proceedings.

Mr Beggs said Ds Whelan had now "been under investigation for a truly astonishing period of his erstwhile exemplary career" and that the failure on behalf of South Wales Police to provide the defence with particulars of the allegations in a timely way was a situation of "supreme irony".

He said: "My client is accused of, in effect, not responding quickly enough or well enough when he was working in the most difficult, most trying of circumstances... the Professional Standards department is guilty of exactly the same thing."

Panel chairman, barrister Robert Vernon, ruled that the hearing, which is scheduled to last eight days, should be heard in public after hearing from South Wales Police, which brought the case, and Mr Beggs, who said his client wanted the hearing to be in public.

Mr Beggs said: "It is justice being seen to be done that brings down the risk of any scapegoating or singling out of an individual for what it might be thought is a... corporate weakness or failure in this case.

"If there is to be any possibility of scapegoats then that is a particularly strong reason for open justice."

The hearing heard Jonathan Walters, for South Wales Police, had submitted written arguments as to why the hearing should be conducted in private, including because evidence of police operating practices would be given and for the protection of third parties referred to during the hearing.

Mr Vernon said there had been no dispute as to the principle of open justice, that the panel had decided that there needed to be transparency and the proceedings "should be dealt with in public".

He said the welfare of third parties would be protected with the anonymisation of individuals.

The hearing continues.