A police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said he is "deeply sorry" for how his force failed a child victim of rape who wrote to officers questioning how they investigated the crime.
The case of the five-year-old who was raped by the 12-year-old son of a family friend was highlighted at the weekend after the letter written by the victim, who is now eight, emerged.
She wrote: "When I was five something very bad happened and it was your job to make sure he was properly dealt with and punished. But you didn't do your job and you let me down."
Today Nick Alston, PCC for Essex, said the case had highlighted the force's "profound failure".
He added: "It has left a victim and her family utterly bereft of justice. Leads to other potential offences were not properly investigated at the time.
"Furthermore, it may have caused people in our county who need the help of Essex Police wondering if they can trust them."
The girl's parents told The Mail On Sunday that Essex Police made a series of blunders investigating the offence.
More than three years later the family are still waiting for justice - despite the offender admitting the offence in a recorded interview and being given a youth caution.
Officers wrongly claimed that they had reported the case to the Crown Prosecution Service, failed to have the rapist's name added to the Sex Offenders Register and neglected to take fingerprints, DNA samples or photographs, the newspaper said.
Mr Alston said he became aware of the case in 2013 and immediately discussed the matter with the deputy chief and chief constable.
In April last year, the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and disciplinary action was taken against a number of officers.
Adding he had met with the parents on several occasions, he said: "Like them I am determined that what went wrong is fully understood and that everything is done that can be done to prevent a repetition."
Mr Alston added: " Much of what needed to be fixed may well prove to have been to do with the attitude of officers.
"We must build a police service where every officer is motivated by the prevention of harm rather than the mindless chasing of targets, and that the impact on victims and their families is always kept at the centre of any decision taking, however difficult.
"I feel deeply sorry for the victim and her family. Essex Police should not have let them down but they did.
"It is my role to ensure that all the actions taken subsequently have been conducted diligently, and especially that what was wrong that can be put right, has been put right.
"Most sadly, for the victim the innocence of childhood cannot be restored."