Ex-police commissioner will not face criminal charges over explicit photo
PUBLISHED: 10:34 21 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:34 21 April 2020
Former police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite will not be charged for allegedly sending an indecent image to a vulnerable woman after prosecutors said she “encouraged” him.
Mr Ablewhite resigned his £85,000 a year post last November as Cambridgeshire’s police and crime commissioner. This newspaper established in December that a nine-day exchange of sometimes sexually suggestive messages with a woman he had met at police headquarters in Huntingdon was behind the resignation.
The woman complained to police about Mr Ablewhite sending an indecent image. The matter was handled by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) who sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide whether the 47-year old should face any criminal charges.
But the CPS concluded the woman, 50, appeared to “encourage” Mr Ablewhite, adding she was “flirtatious”.
The woman said: “In all honesty I feel let down. Suddenly he’s just a naughty boy and I’m flirty and led him on”.
She said she would appeal the CPS decision.
The CPS investigation followed the visit when the woman was in a group being shown round by Mr Ablewhite.
Within hours of getting home she claimed he initiated a series of Facebook messages that culminated with him sending her an indecent photo.
It was after that she called the police.
The CPS solicitor who handled the case, Kirstie Dye, reviewed material provided by the IOPC following their investigation into the Facebook messages exchanged last October.
In a letter she told the woman: “There is no evidence to suggest that the suspect considered the specific photograph to be indecent or obscene.
“Whilst I understand that you said you deflected away from his comments, ‘with being funny but never encouraging’, in my opinion the conversations taken in their entirety do appear flirtatious.
“I accept that you did on occasion try and change the subject but on others you appear to encourage continuation of the type of conversation.”
Ms Dye quoted an extract from one of the messages in which the woman told Mr Ablewhite: “I’m sure your truncheon is very impressive chief, but you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to boast”. The CPS lawyer concluded that “at no time did you make it clear that the innuendo was categorically unwelcome or shut down the conversations”.
Ms Dye said: “There is a suggestion that the same or a similar picture had been sent previously but no indication of what your response was, if any.
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“The suspect did not make any admissions in respect of his intention at the time of sending the image, but he did say that he did not intend to cause you any annoyance or upset.
“He said that he believed that at all three times your messages were in a flirty and humourful tone and if he had thought that he had upset you in any way he would have stopped the conversation.”
Ms Dye added: “Please be reassured that I am making absolutely no criticism of you in these comments.
“I simply make reference to your responses only insofar as they would have been received and factored into the suspect’s decision to send you the image at the time he did.
“Although I understand that the suspect’s position at the time may have added to your impression of him, he was not acting in this capacity when he messaged you.”
Ms Dye said there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution and she had concluded there was no realistic prospect of a conviction.
On the issue of public interest, she said the IOPC had asked her look at whether a charge should be brought under the Communications Act of 2003.
She accepted “the picture concerned could be described as indecent or obscene”.
But Ms Dye noted that there is also a mental element to be considered.
Case law makes it clear that this mental element is directed exclusively to the state of the mind of the suspect and not the recipient, she wrote.
“I have to consider what the suspect’s intention was when the message was sent and whether he either intended to send you an indecent or obscene message,” she added.
Her other consideration was whether he recognised the risk that it would be perceived as such.
“I do not believe that the evidence shows this and as such I cannot prove that element or part of the offence,” she said.
An IOPC spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to take no further action after we submitted a file of evidence from our investigation into a complaint against the former police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire.
“We have now informed all interested parties of the decision. The complainant now has the option to exercise their Right to Review the decision.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further until the process is complete.”
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