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Journalist to launch civil action against police over failed rape probe

Patricia Devlin 2020A journalist who claims officers failed to properly investigate a threat to rape her newborn baby is to launch a civil action against the police.

Patricia Devlin, who won the News Reporter of the Year and the Scoop of the Year titles at the 2014 Regional Press Awards, received the online threat against her son in October 2019.

As reported by HTFP in March, prosecutors decided to not move forward with the prosecution of a man suspected of making the threat on the grounds of “insufficient evidence.”

But Patricia is to continue her fight for justice by launching a civil action against the Police Service of Northern Ireland, saying they failed to properly investigate the case at the time.

Patricia, pictured, said she felt “just completely let down by the police and the system” after hearing the decision by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service to uphold the original decision not to prosecute.

“This is not about me but about my child,” she told the Irish News, saying she fears the suspect remains a danger to herself and her family.

In September 2021, Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson said there had been a “complete failure” by the PSNI to properly investigate the online threat, which she described as “repulsive”.

Ms Anderson said it was “concerning that police failed to take measures to arrest the suspect at the earliest opportunity” and that “evidential opportunities” had been missed.

The PPS said its decision was made as there was “no reasonable prospect” of proving before a court the suspect sent the message.

In a letter, it conceded that an offence had been committed, and that the message, signed in the name of neo-Nazi group Combat 18, was “grossly offensive, obscene and menacing.”

A PPS spokeswoman told the News: “All the available evidence submitted by police was carefully considered by a senior public prosecutor. We explored further lines of inquiry with police to assist in identifying the person who sent the message.

“While we determined that the message was grossly offensive and menacing contrary to the Communications Act 2003, it was determined that the available evidence was insufficient to link the reported person to the message.”

“We acknowledge that the content of the message was grossly offensive and will have been extremely upsetting and hurtful to the victim. We have engaged with the victim in this case to explain in detail the reasons for our decision not to prosecute and the outcome of the review.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI told HTFP: “It would be inappropriate to comment given the ongoing legal proceedings.”