A WILTSHIRE Police officer has received a final written warning following a gross misconduct hearing which looked into how he progressed an inquiry into indecent images of children discovered on a laptop.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission carried out an investigation into how Detective Sergeant Tom Ellerby handled the case of child rapist Michael Ponzo.

DS Ellerby seized the computer following a report of concern about its contents. After confirming it contained indecent images of children he submitted it to Wiltshire’s High-Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) for examination.

It was not examined for several months and in May 2014 DS Ellerby was informed that there was an indication that a person who lived at the house where the laptop was seized may have been responsible.

The IPCC investigation found no evidence that DS Ellerby had taken any action to pass the information on to Wiltshire Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) until 13 months later.

DS Ellerby also failed to record the suspected offender as a potential suspect on the police system at the appropriate time.

The IPCC investigation began in March last year after Wiltshire Police referred concerns about apparent delays in progressing the investigation of the indecent images.

After analysing the evidence gathered as part of the investigation, the lead investigator determined that DS Ellerby had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

IPCC Associate Commissioner Guido Liguori said: “DS Ellerby’s failure to take prompt action once he was told of the suspected identity of the offender has had potentially serious consequences. It is possible that an opportunity was missed to confront the individual’s offending earlier than was the case.

“The public can be assured that when concerns are raised about potential police failings, as in this case, the IPCC will take action and investigate thoroughly to ensure that those who may be at fault are held to account.”

The IPCC investigation also found there was evidence to suggest a Detective Superintendent had a case to answer for misconduct for a delay in reporting this matter to Wiltshire Police’s Professional Standards Department.

Wiltshire Police determined that his performance was unsatisfactory, and he has received words of advice.

A spokesman from the force said: “The allegations related to DS Ellerby failing to properly complete an investigation involving suspected child abuse images contrary to his duties and responsibilities.

“The allegations were upheld by the panel which was independently chaired by a Legally Qualified Chair and DS Ellerby was given a final written warning.

“We expect the highest levels of professional standards from all our officers and staff and DS Ellerby accepts his actions in relation to this investigation fell well short of those expectations.

“When this matter came to light, we referred it to the IPCC. DS Ellerby was also removed at that time from frontline, operational duties. In the intervening period, he has been in a non-public facing role.

“We would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to the families who may have been either directly or indirectly impacted by this case.

“We want to reaffirm our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities. We treat every case of reported sexual abuse extremely seriously and adopt a multi-agency approach to safeguard those at risk.

“We’ve sought to undertake any learning that was identified in relation to this case and we’ve looked to address any issues raised to limit the likelihood of such an incident in the future.”

Ponzo of Colbrook Road, Coleview, was jailed for 10 years after admitting a number of serious sexual offences against children when he was hired as a babysitter.