In January, High Court family judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled she had – on the balance of probabilities – been sexually assaulted by Paul Worthington
The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Paul Worthington despite the damning verdict of a judge in the case.
Cumbria Chief Constable Jerry Graham issued an apology to ‘Poppi’s family and all those who loved her’ for failing to conduct a proper inquiry following her death in 2012.
He admitted they had ‘let down Poppi Worthington, and her family, and I deeply regret this.”
Paul Worthington has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with her death
He told a packed press conference at police HQ in Penrith today: “I believe the main failings were a failure to secure and preserve potentially relevant evidence from Poppi’s home address or the hospital that she was taken to, a failure to conduct a thorough investigation in a timely or effective manner, particularly the length of time to obtain witness statements and to formally interview key witnesses – also the length of time taken to send off forensic evidence for analysis. I believe the potential cumulative impact of these failings has meant that the ability of legal proceedings charged with determining what happened to Poppi had been hindered. Crucially evidence has not been able to tested to the criminal law standard of beyond reasonable doubt.”
His force had also failed to alert local authorities early enough to ‘safeguarding issues’ in the case.
“Most importantly, flaws in the police investigation contributed to Poppi’s family not receiving the professional response they were entitled to expect,” he added.
It follows the opening of a new inquest into the 13-month-old’s death which heard her father Paul receives threats and intimidation ‘on a daily basis’.
He has been in hiding since a judge ruled he had sexually assaulted his daughter prior to her death in 2012.
The Crown Prosecution Service was then still considering whether to bring criminal charges against the 49-year-old following the family division finding in January this year.
But his lawyer Paul Clark told a pre-inquest review into Poppi’s death in March that his client’s safety would have to be taken into account.
He said: “There is a real danger to Mr Worthington arising from this process. The first stage that may be obligatory is that your officers conduct a risk assessment as to the circumstances in which he gives his evidence in a way that minimises that.”
He suggested giving evidence via video link rather than attending the hearing in person was the best option for Mr Worthington.
Flowers at Poppi’s burial plot in 2013
And he asked Cumbria coroner David Roberts to consider the ‘level of risk and level of intimidation which Mr Worthington experiences on a daily basis’ in calling him as a witness.
The hearing in Carlisle heard the new inquest into Poppi’s death was likely to take place in autumn this year, depending on any decision by the CPS to prosecute her father. Mr Roberts said: “I’m aware papers have been received by the CPS. There is no time scale on it, but I would hope any decision on that would be made fairly promptly.”
The High Court ruled the truth about the tragic end to her life may never be known, due to mistakes made in probing evidence at the time.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson said in findings released in January this year: “The situation is one in which a healthy child with no medical condition or illness was put to bed by her mother one evening and brought downstairs eight hours later by her father in a lifeless state and with troubling injuries.”
He found that “on the balance of probability…. Mr Worthington perpetrated a penetrative assault on Poppi.”
Senior detectives thought a pathologist “may have jumped to conclusions” when suspicions were raised about how she had died in December, 2012.
But they decided not to investigate until the full post-mortem report was ready – which was not finished until the following summer. By that time, her body had been released by a coroner, and buried without a proper criminal inquiry having taken place.
Mr Justice Jackson also criticised Cumbria Police and county council, saying no ‘real’ investigation was carried out for nine months after she died.