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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Soham officer cleared of sex charges
Brian Stevens and his wife Jane
A delighted Brian Stevens with his wife Jane after being cleared
Soham policeman Brian Stevens has been cleared of child sex and computer porn charges after key evidence was found to contain "substantial errors".

Detective Constable Stevens told of his "tremendous relief" as he was cleared of indecently assaulting two teenage girls and possessing and distributing indecent photographs of children.

Mr Stevens - police liaison officer to the family of murder victim Jessica Chapman - offered no explanation as to why the images were found on his laptop computer.

Lawyers for the 42-year-old said it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment as he is still a serving policeman.

Missing inquiry

He remains suspended and Cambridgeshire Police's professional standards department was "reviewing internal disciplinary matters" under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority.

Father-of-two Mr Stevens' name appeared on a list of 279 suspected paedophiles handed to Cambridgeshire Police in early July last year as part of Operation Ore.

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman
Mr Stevens was a family liaison officer after the two girls died
It followed a US Postal Service inquiry into pay-per-view child porn websites.

The intelligence was not immediately acted upon and a month later 10-year-old Jessica and her best friend Holly Wells went missing, triggering Britain's biggest manhunt.

All lower priority inquiries were put on hold and Mr Stevens was appointed as family liaison officer to Jessica's parents Leslie and Sharon and their daughters Rebecca and Alison, then aged 16 and 14.

But weeks later detectives realised Mr Stevens' name was on the list.

'Wrong' evidence

Mr Stevens was arrested at his home on 12 September and his computer seized.

Prosecutor Andrew Campbell-Tiech, QC said there were "substantial errors" in the examination of Mr Stevens' computer and set out the reasons why he was offering no evidence in the case.

Brian Stevens
Mr Stevens read a poem at the girls' memorial service in Ely
Sections of evidence from a police computer expert - who was not named in court - were found to be "wholly wrong", the lawyer said.

This was the "key determinant factor" in deciding not to pursue charges alleging that 12 photographs on the laptop were indecent images of children.

The CPS had already decided not to proceed with the indecent assault allegations, the court was told.

The court was told Mr Stevens claimed the assault charges arose out of "innocent actions" that had been "coloured by the publicity of his arrest".

Since the case had come to court, prosecutors had learned of a personal tragedy affecting one of the complainants and had taken the view that the case against Mr Stevens was now "speculative".

The court also heard that one of the girls giving evidence against him changed her statement.

In police interviews Mr Stevens "persistently denied" that he had downloaded the images, that he had known they were on the computer or that he was the only person to use the laptop, the court was told.

The Common Serjeant of London, Peter Beaumont QC, ordered not guilty charges to be recorded on all 11 charges at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Mr Stevens was cleared of five charges of possessing indecent photographs of children, three charges of distributing indecent photographs of children and three charges of indecently assaulting girls under the age of 16.

His lawyer William Clegg, QC told the court: "Being falsely accused of charges as sensational and as serious as these have clearly placed an enormous strain on the defendant and his family, who clearly now feel a real sense of relief their ordeal is over."

Mr Stevens embraced his wife Jane as he left the courtroom and they left the courthouse hand in hand, followed by Mr Stevens' 19-year-old son Ian.

  • Anthony Goodridge, 37, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, another Soham policeman arrested at the same time as Brian Stevens, was jailed after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.

    The former constable worked as the exhibits officer and was sacked by the Cambridgeshire force in March soon after admitting the charges.


  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    The BBC's James Westhead
    "Police thought they had an electronic trail which linked Stevens to indecent images"



    SEE ALSO:
    Soham's trusted family liaison officer
    20 Aug 03  |  Cambridgeshire
    Operation Ore: Can the UK cope?
    13 Jan 03  |  UK News


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