Award for detective who put Northampton's most prolific sex offenders behind bars

Cathy O'Connor receives her award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

Cathy O'Connor receives her award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

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A detective who led the investigation that resulted in Northampton's most prolific sex offenders being locked up have received awards for their work.

Detective Constable, Cathy O’Connor, was named Police Officer of the Year at the annual awards held at Northamptonshire Police HQ at Wootton Hall.

Will Armer receives his award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

Will Armer receives his award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

For the past 18 months Cathy led Operation Zilch, the investigation into Nicholas and Joan Taylor who were found guilty on 94 counts of multiple historical sex and drug offences against children as young as 11, spanning a 20 year period between 1996 and 2006.

Nicholas Taylor received a life sentence and Joan Taylor was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Those nominating Cathy spoke of the compassion, support and strength provided to each victim and witness which enabled them to have confidence to speak.

Cathy has dedicated vast amounts of her own personal time to ensuring a successful outcome. The Crown Prosecution Service was also glowing in its praise for her work with the QC representing the prosecution having nothing but complimentary words for Cathy and the standard of the investigation.

Ashley Liggins receives her award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

Ashley Liggins receives her award from Chief Constable Simon Edens

The awards celebrated achievement and long service by staff at Northamptonshire Police.

Chief Constable, Simon Edens said: “I am delighted to have had his opportunity to thank our officers and staff for the excellent work they do on a daily basis to protect people from harm in Northamptonshire.

“All of those being awarded for either length of service or for outstanding achievement have made a significant contribution to the communities of Northamptonshire and it is only right that we celebrate that contribution and shout about their successes.”

Other awards included Operation Shapka, which was the recipient of the Chief Constable and Judge's Commendation.

The High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, Rupert Fordham

The High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, Rupert Fordham

Shapka was the police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Keith Phillips in Rushden on July 5, 2015.

On that morning Keith Phillips was walking with a friend along a residential street in Rushden. His friend had been contemplating suicide and in an effort to calm his friend, the pair went for a walk. Soon after, a car approached the pair at speed and on seeing them broke hard and came to a standstill. Two men emerged from the car wearing balaclavas and one was holding a shotgun. Following an altercation, the gunman shot at Keith Philips, who survived the attack but lives with the trauma to this day.

By October 2015, the investigation had gone ‘cold’ and was due to be filed ‘undetected’. Op Worcester - the Force's drive to tackle gang-related crime in the Wellingborough area - assumed control of the investigation leading to the identification of three suspects, two for attempted murder and one for perverting the course of justice, all of whom pleaded not guilty at Court. At the close of the trial the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts for all three suspects and the defendants received sentences totalling 50 years.

The Judge also commended the efforts of the Operation Shapka team stating: “This was a difficult and complicated case to investigate, and I recognise on behalf of the public at large the enormous amount of hard work that must have gone into the investigation of this case, and clearly those involved in the investigation team must be commended for their hard work and dedication."

Police Staff Member of the Year went to Ashley Liggins, who has played a vital role in helping Northamptonshire Police improve upon its position and standing with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) over the past year resulting in a significant change from previous inspections.

In 2016 the Force achieved a “good” rating in its efficiency report and particularly improved its understanding of demand and how to deal with this.

Ashley has established the Business Improvement Team, which will further help the Force to deliver improvements, and has led a significant amount of work to develop an evidence base upon which to make decisions to ensure resourcing is more aligned to demand.

Other winners included Will Armer, named Special of the Year and Beth Loveridge, named Cadet of the Year.

Chief Constable’s Commendations were also awarded and Royal Humane Society Certificates presented by High Sheriff, Rupert Fordham.