Father tells how his life was ruined by a police investigation for child abuse images because of a typo

Rozina Sabur
Nigel Lang - BBC

A father has told how his life was ruined by a police investigation for child abuse images because officers had made a typo.

Nigel Lang said his career and family life fell apart when he was mistakenly arrested on suspicion of sharing indecent images of children.

The 50-year-old said feared his family would be targeted once news of his arrest became public.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Lang said that the arrest by South Yorkshire Police in July 2011 left his reputation "in tatters". He is now unemployed and suffers from mental health issues.

Mr Lang had been working as a drug recovery worker to with young people struggling from substance abuse.

Officers at South Yorkshire Police force are understood to have been told  by Hertfordshire Police that their officers had identified an IP address linked to the distribution of more than 100 indecent images of children in April 2011.

Credit: PA

The IP address actually corresponded to an internet account used by Mr Lang's partner, but it had been typed incorrectly with an extra digit mistakenly added.

Mr Lang said after his arrest he stayed with his mother, but he said his young son would cry because he could not understand why he was not at home. 

Three weeks later, the officers ceased the investigation into Mr Lang and returned his computers, but he says the experience caused a lasting impact, including psychological trauma. 

"Because of what happened I felt unable to go back into the field of work I was working in," he told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. 

"It was the best job I'd had in my life, and I felt I was really good at it.

"But I became fearful of working with young females in case any of them said I tried any sexual advances. It made me paranoid."

Mr Lang made a complaint against South Yorkshire Police in order to get to the bottom of the cause of the investigation.

He believed he had been unfairly targeted, given that the internet account was registered to his white partner, but she had not been investigated.

The complaint was dismissed, but it was during this process Mr Lang learned of Hertfordshire Police's input into his case. His lawyer later discovered the reason behind the incorrect IP address.

Mr Lang received a written apology for the error from Hertfordshire Police in 2014, after which he sought compensation for a breach of data protection, false imprisonment, police assault/battery, and trespass by police.

Mr Lang received £60,000 in damages, as well as legal costs, in an out of court settlement with Hertfordshire Police.

"It isn't enough money," he said, "but after six years of fighting, you're tired.

"I didn't even get two-and-a-half years' wages. I haven't worked since."

In a statement to the BBC, Hertfordshire Police said it "made an early admission of the mistake once it had been identified and would like to apologise again for the wrongful arrest and further impact caused".

"It was an administrative error which led to this occurring, and lessons have been learnt to help prevent this happening again.

"This man was completely innocent and compensation has now rightfully been settled."

A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said: “We recognise that Mr Lang’s arrest in these circumstances was extremely distressing for him and his family.

“In 2011, we were requested to assist Hertfordshire Constabulary with their investigation and on that basis arrested Mr Lang. The information provided by Hertfordshire Constabulary was subsequently found to be incorrect, and he has been rightly compensated by Hertfordshire Constabulary.

“Mr Lang subsequently made a complaint to our Professional Standards Department in 2012 which was investigated. We found there was no evidence of discriminatory behaviour.”

Mr Lang has decided to open up about the ordeal in order to clear his name. "I didn't have my day in court, and I need the world to know I'm not a paedophile," he said.

"I'm ill because of it, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

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