How an innocent man's reputation was ruined by a police mistake
Successful Shropshire pub landlord Darren Price fought for two years to win an apology from West Mercia Police after a paedophile’s convictions were wrongly attributed to him.
But the 49-year-old said the apology does not go far enough after for the force mixed him up with an unrelated man of the same name who has been convicted of child sex offences.
The circumstances around the mistake are as bizarre as they are complex.
Mr Price says the problems arose after he and his partner Stuart Wassall, 33, suffered homophobic abuse and harassment at their public house in Bishop's Castle.
The landlord of the Boar’s Head in Church Street, who also runs the town’s post office, contacted the local policing team over a dispute involving another resident in 2014.
In 2014 Aaron Jones was convicted of harassing the couple at Telford Magistrates Court.
Same name, wrong file
It was during this police investigation that the convictions of a different man with the same name was added to the file and attributed to Mr Price, with devastating consequences.
The landlord said the situation has cost him tens of thousands of pounds to fight.
He has now received a letter of apology from West Mercia Police, but Mr Price says he is still not happy.
He said: “The police apology is inadequate. I got it owing to my MP Phillip Dunne insisting that the force made one after the standards’ reports upheld my complaint.
"And they blame the situation down to an administration error, which I don’t believe was right.
“I can’t begin to explain the damage that has been done to my life. People have attempted to run us out of town. The information was shown to people in the area.
“At first we couldn’t understand what was going on. People would stop coming to the pub and we were losing custom.
"When I was still doing hairdressing and working in my post office people would come in to get their hair done then they would disappear and not come back, or I would see them in the street and they would not make eye contact or cross over to avoid me.
"I didn’t know what the problem was.
“I only found out about the document when I got a letter from a Crown Prosecution Service boss who had reviewed my situation and spotted the discrepancy,” Mr Price said.
“I feel this has to be cleared up for my family who have also had a difficult time with comments being made to them and all the things that have happened in the last few years.
"I will not spend time with my nieces and nephews because I’m terrified of what people will say. I don’t take them out or go on holiday without their parents being there.
“It breaks my heart. I feel terrible about it all.
“I have post traumatic stress disorder, I’m getting therapy and I take medication just to get up.
"I haven’t walked into the businesses downstairs for quite some time. I also stopped walking in the town because I never know what’s gong to to be said.”
He added that there had been two incidents at the pub in the last six weeks where tourists had commented on the untrue allegations, suggesting that someone had repeated it to them.
Mr Price’s solicitor Adrian Robert, of Lanyon Bowdler, said it was “curious” that during the course of events, the police through the Crown Prosecuting Service provided misleading information to the solicitor of a man he had a harassment dispute with.
Mr Robert said the child sex convictions provided to Mr Jones’ solicitors involved another Darren Price, who has no connection whatsoever with the landlord.
Mr Robert said: “Bishops Castle is a small place and these convictions were made known around the community. People believe it’s genuine.
“This has been absolutely devastating for him on a personal level, and his family relationships and with others because they have been damaged. Some people chose to believe it, as is their absolute right, and reported the detail to other people.
“He has been abused on a regular basis. People who go to the town for drink or a meal and they will be told that Darren Price is a sex offender from the past.
"We all know that people feel very strongly about the presence of sex offenders in the community.”
Aaron Jones,who was convicted of harassing the couple at Telford Magistrates Court, recently lodged a crown appeal against the conviction, but this was dismissed and he remains subject to an indefinite restraining order banning him from contacting the couple or going within 50 metres of the pub.
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