A detective has admitted the decision not to refer Jake Davison’s assault of two teenagers to the Crown Prosecution Service was the wrong one and posed a danger to the public, an inquest heard.
Detective Sergeant Edward Bagshaw said attacks by Davison on a 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl should have been sent to prosecutors to consider charging him with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and battery.
But the police were under “pressure” not to send more cases to the courts who were struggling to deal with increased backlogs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and instead he was put through a restorative justice programme.
The inquest heard the 22-year-old gunman reigned down a volley of punches on the boy and slapped his female friend after being called a “fat c***” by another teenager.
The apprentice crane operator was never charged and instead was referred to the restorative justice Pathfinder scheme.
His legally held shotgun and certificate were later seized after a member of the scheme warned the force he was a licence holder, but they were later returned in July 2021.
Just weeks later Davison killed his mother Maxine, 51, three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father, Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66.
The inquest heard Detective Constable Pablo Beckhurst, who investigated the two assaults, sent a summary of evidence by email to Det Sgt Bagshaw, his supervisor.
Det Sgt Bagshaw explained police can charge offences of common assault or battery themselves but if it was a more serious, such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm or assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, it required approval from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Bridget Dolan KC, counsel to the inquest, asked the detective whether there was a tendency to downgrade offences during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Dolan questioned the officer on how the case was reclassified as battery from ABH.
“Do you recall positively saying both of these should be charged as battery?,” she asked.
He replied: “That might have happened, but I don’t remember.”
Dominic Adamson KC, representing the families of Davison’s victims, suggested the assault on the boy was a “nailed on” Section 47 ABH case and should have been referred to the CPS.
“In my opinion at that time it should have been referred to the CPS,” Det Sgt Bagshaw replied.
Det Sgt Bagshaw replied: “I would have to agree with that.”
Mr Stanage asked: “It was a decision that posed a danger to the public?”
Det Sgt Bagshaw replied: “Yes, I would agree with that. There was a possibility it could have ended up with a battery which could have potentially ended up in court.
“We didn’t get to that stage. It was dealt with by a different method.”
Mr Stanage suggested the decision not to refer the incident to the CPS for a charging decision “failed to protect the public”.
Det Sgt Bagshaw replied: “I think the answer to that is probably, yes.”
Mr Stanage asked: “A decision that posed a danger to the public?”
Det Sgt Bagshaw replied: “Probably, yes.”
The inquest also heard from Detective Inspector Debbie Wyatt, who was at the time a sergeant and made the decision to send Davison’s case to Pathfinder.
She said at the time officers were receiving “regular emails” from Criminal Justice Unit asking them to consider “out-of-court disposals”.
Ms Dolan asked: “It was a call to send as much as you can to the Pathfinder?”
The officer replied: “If it was appropriate. If I didn’t feel it was suitable, I would not have sent it.
“I believe at the time during Covid and had the call been made into the CPS they would say it was a police charging decision.
“I accept it could be reviewed as ABH.”