CHILD abuse victims must never be let down again after two detectives were convicted of sabotaging investigations, according to the police commissioner.

Detective constables Sharon Patterson, 49, and Lee Pollard, 47, forged documents, concealed evidence and lied about investigations out of laziness and disdain for victims when they were serving in the North Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) between 2011 and 2014.

Patterson was even accused of ditching work to get a manicure and have a four-hour-long lunch at a Chinese restaurant with her married lover Pollard.

When she forged a document to shut down one investigation, Pollard described her as his "deceptive partner in crime" in flirtatious emails.

Patterson was convicted of one charge of misconduct in public office and cleared of another, while Pollard was convicted of two after a trial at the Old Bailey in London - a third charge for both will lie on file.

They blamed the unit's chaotic administration for their actions which included Pollard destroying four photos found of a suspect accused of abusing a boy in the 1980s and falsely claiming an alleged victim had moved without a forwarding address so he could not explain to him why police had closed an investigation.

The trial forms part of an investigation overseen by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) which began in February 2015, called Operation Maple.

In 2013 an internal review of workloads and case progress identified issues with the effectiveness of a number of investigations into allegations of child abuse carried out by some officers. In total, 30 were investigated.

Following the verdicts, police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst said: "It is my job to hold Essex Police to account on behalf of the people of Essex.

"I scrutinise the force and its performance.

"I am confident that the procedures in place and the increased investment to improving the Child Abuse Investigation Teams means the force has improved greatly, with efforts being recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.

"This year we have provided funding which will enable the force to recruit an additional 215 officers on top of the 150 recruited following the 2018/2019 budget.

"This will mean an extra 20 officers for the Crime and Public Protection Command, which investigates child abuse.

"However, we must not be complacent and we must ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society are never let down in this way again.”

Mr Hirst also echoed Assistant Chief Constable Andy Prophet who said nothing was more important than protecting children.

hat nothing is more important than protecting children. Victims are at the heart of what we do and for these two officers, it is clear that this was not the case.

Patterson, who is still a serving detective but suspended, will be subject to consideration for internal gross misconduct proceedings.

In October last year, Det Con Peter Wood, who worked at the same unit, was dismissed for gross misconduct for lying during a child abuse case.

A panel found that between June 2013 and August 2014, he failed to take appropriate steps to trace a suspect, he was also found to have made a dishonest entry on a force recording system and lied about a witness not being willing to provide a statement.

Pollard has already been dismissed for gross misconduct after he accessed, copied and disclosed another officer's computerised application for a job promotion without the individual's permission and then disclosed it to another officer who was considering applying for the same post.