Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Police theft inquiry 'deplorable'

Det Ch Insp Jim Torbet
Det Ch Insp Jim Torbet was found dead at his home in Peacehaven

Colleagues of two police officers arrested on suspicion of shoplifting wine from M&S have condemned the way the investigation was handled.

Det Ch Insp Jim Torbet, 54, was found dead at his home in East Sussex in the early hours of 30 October.

His colleague, Ch Insp Sharon Rowe, was told last week she will not be charged.

The Police Federation said the handling of the case by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was "deplorable". The CPS said the correct decisions were made.

Mr Torbet and Ms Rowe were arrested in September and accused of stealing wine from the Marks & Spencer store in Shoreham, West Sussex.

Both were suspended from their jobs with Sussex Police.

Last week Alastair Nisbet, head of the CPS complex casework unit in Wessex, said there was sufficient evidence to merit a charge but it would not be in the public interest to prosecute Ms Rowe.

Close friend

The reasons given were: "the likely sentence in the event of a conviction, the suspect's good character and long record of public service and the recent and untimely death of the close friend whom she was with at the time of the alleged offence".

Mr Torbet's family said they were very angry at the outcome of the investigation, which had put him under pressure.

"There is no doubt in (our) minds that this was a major contributing factor in Jim taking his own life," they said.

"If... there was evidence of criminal offences having been committed let the facts be aired in court.

Ch Insp Sharon Rowe
Ch Insp Sharon Rowe has been told she will not face prosecution

"Jim's integrity and honesty have been brought into question and he's not here to defend himself."

On Monday, Sussex Police Federation said Mr Nisbet's statement was "extremely disappointing and dishonourable".

"Unusually, despite the fact that a person is innocent until proven guilty under English law, Mr Nisbet has gone into great detail about his decision making and even the extent of sufficiency of evidence," said spokesman Brian Stockham.

"That has led to media distortion in some reports and to ill-informed members of the public writing on websites and that has been deeply hurtful to friends, family and colleagues of both officers."

Ms Rowe, 44, remains suspended from her job as Worthing district commander.

A spokesman for the CPS said it was made clear the CPS decision was taken in the public interest and not on evidential grounds.

"A decision not to prosecute was taken according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors," he said.

"We are satisfied that the correct decision was taken and that our explanation of that decision was appropriate."

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