September 17 2014 Latest news:
by Emma Youle, News editor
Friday, September 5, 2014
A sergeant who used the police’s national database to snoop on his new lover and gain unauthorised information during a period of “emotional turmoil” has walked free from court.
Christopher Scott, 44, was working as a supervisor on the Safer Neighbourhoods community police team in Swiss Cottage when he accessed police records on his lover Margaret Knight.
The suspicions of another officer were aroused when Mrs Knight was cautioned for harassing her former husband by text and Scott, who was not working the case, appeared to know privileged information.
Westminster Magistrates Court heard that Scott gained details about his girlfriend’s husband and her son’s friends, believing they may have been drug dealers.
He also used privileged information to check on his car rather than ringing his insurance company.
Yesterday district judge Howard Riddle sentenced Scott to 12 months community service after he previously pleaded guilty to six charges of accessing unauthorised data from the police computer.
The judge said: “I do accept that there was no corrupt motive, I have been assured and again accept that what you did did not interfere with police investigations into any matter and indeed there is no evidence that the information was passed on to anyone else.
“It is frankly bizarre behaviour and I accept there was considerable emotional turmoil in your life which may or may not explain it.”
The sergeant met Mrs Knight on a dating website and later went to a police station with her on July 19 last year, where she was handed a caution for harassment relating to her ex-husband.
Scott appeared to know information that raised the suspicions of another officer and an investigation was carried out by the Directorate of Professional Standards.
An audit showed a ‘number of people’ accessing the report on Mrs Knight’s case.
Prosecutor Robert Simpson said: “Sgt Scott could be seen on four separate occasions accessing the report.
“It was then suspected that a number of enquiries were being carried out by him which appeared to be unlawful.”
Scott mined the Police National Computer (PNC) for information about his new girlfriend and his former partner after she had split up with him.
In one instance he checked on his car insurance after finding out his ex-girlfriend had used his name for tickets.
Defence lawyer Robert Morris said Scott was suffering from depression at the time of the charges and was struggling to cope with the death of his parents and the end of the 11-year relationship.
“He has thrown away his career, he has put himself into more financial difficulty,’ he said.
“This all stems from curiosity, which is out of the fact that Mr Scott was dealing with deep problems of trust and depression at the time.”
The judge accepted Scott was “a man of good character” but said “it would be inconceivable if he were to keep his job”.
“These were repeated breaches of trust occurring over a period of time as a police officer,” he said.
“There is a particular onus on you to respect the law and people would be alarmed that privacy is being invaded in this way by access to a computer system when you had no right to do so.”
Scott, of Kennel Lane, Billericay, Essex, was ordered to pay £85 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £60.
He remains suspended from duty as a police officer pending an Internal Disciplinary Board.