Family Sues Police over Girl Abused by Attacker
The family of a three-year-old girl sexually assaulted by the paedophile Craig Sweeney said last night that they would begin a civil action against South Wales Police “for their failure to protect our child against this known and dangerous molester”. Earlier, Barbara Wilding, the chief constable of South Wales, apologised to the child after criticism of the force by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
It partly upheld a complaint by the girl’s father that the police response had been too slow and recommended that officers face a misconduct panel for failing to be diligent in their duty.
A statement released by the family said: “South Wales Police could, in our opinion, have prevented all of the attacks on our child. We do not agree with the first part of the IPCC findings, but are pleased that the IPCC found that South Wales Police had failed out daughter ‘in part’ .”
The girl’s ordeal began on Jan 2, days after Sweeney finished a period on licence following his early release for assaulting another child. The girl and her mother, who had known Sweeney when she was younger, had not long returned from a shopping trip when he knocked at the door.
She invited Sweeney in but, as her back was turned, he snatched the child and drove her to his flat in Newport where he assaulted her. The mother made a 999 call to police, identifying Sweeney and saying where he lived.
But as police closed in, Sweeney took the girl on a terrifying drive over the Severn Bridge and into England. He was caught by Wiltshire police early on Jan 3 after a car chase in which he drove at 100 mph and at the end of which the child was thrown from the overturned vehicle.
Tom Davies, the IPCC Wales Commissioner, said “prompt and appropriate” action by officers might have spared the girl the latter part of her ordeal.
He said police initially followed procedures for dealing with a ransom rather than a sexual kidnap – an error that delayed Sweeney’s capture.
But Mr Davies said that while there may have been potential to go to Sweeney’s home sooner, there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim that this would have prevented the sexual assault that took place there.
The family statement said the South Wales force “should have known and could have known who, what and where Craig Sweeney was, from the 999 call onwards”.
Sweeney was jailed for life last month after admitting kidnap and sexual assault. But there was a political row after he was told he could apply for parole after five years.
Acknowledging the report, Mrs Wilding said: “What is clear is that the initial confusion that often surrounds incidents of this nature, as a consequence of receiving information from a number of sources in a short space of time, was not dealt with as effectively as it should been. In that regard, I have apologised to the child and her family as, clearly, we let them down. For this, I am sorry.”
The victim’s mother, who is 34 and has six children, said last night: “It’s a relief that it wasn’t all my fault, but I’m also angry that the police didn’t protect my daughter.”
The girl, now four, is receiving counselling and the family may move to Spain. Last night it was understood that a superintendent and a senior inspector would face a misconduct hearing. Another superintendent has retired.