A Lincolnshire Police officer committed gross misconduct after accessing records of four people on more than 130 days, including informing a person close to the suspect of sexual abuse allegations made against them.
An accelerated misconduct hearing for the officer – who had already resigned from the force – was held at Lincolnshire Police headquarters in Nettleham on Monday morning, with the force’s Chief Constable Chris Haward chairing the meeting.
The officer, who was not named due to conditions on reporting imposed by Chief Constable Haward, was found to have accessed records of four separate people over the course of 134 days, using police’s computer system to do so, between September 2019 and August 2021.
It was alleged the officer breached confidentiality, as well as orders and instructions, and showed discreditable conduct by using their role in the police to access personal data without authority or reasonable excuse.
The officer was part of the Paedophile Online Investigation Team, and disclosed allegations of sexual abuse to a person with a close interest in the case, specifically the suspect of which the allegations are aimed at, as well as the officer’s partner for a non-police purpose.
The alleged victim of sexual abuse was said to have suffered with their mental health before the incident, which involved having delusions and committing self-harm.
The officer reviewed the case and informed the victim, before reporting it to their line manager, and then is believed to have notified another person, who told the suspect. The officer admitted guilt at the time but said they did it for safety reasons.
The hearing heard the officer accessed the records and conducted a significant number of searches on ‘sensitive data’ regarding the victim, suspect and two other people, as well as looking at two addresses in Boston, without relevant authority.
Presenting evidence, Gemma Roets said the officer had “no authority” to access the information and addresses of the people in question, and added that incidents like this can undermine trust in the force.
“Officers should access this information on a need to know basis, it is not acceptable to utilise it through general curiosity. There should always be a specific policing purpose.
“If the public knew that this was happening, there would be concerns that officers could and would look at their records for their own personal gain.
“GDPR regulations require lawful access to information, and the public expect the highest standards, the officer is solely responsible, has admitted to this and now resigned.”
The officer was handed a regulation notice on August 12, 2021 and a further notice on August 25, before resigning on January 17, 2022.
They reported their own wrongdoing to their line manager, and it was accepted that while guidance was loose from people above the officer, they were given plenty of data protection guidance to avoid instances like this, the hearing heard.
Chief Constable Haward concluded by saying that the “only outcome” of the hearing was to call the act gross misconduct, stating the officer would have been dismissed from the force had they not already resigned.
“The subject was an otherwise high performing and highly professional officer who committed to nearly 30 years of service, dealing with serious crimes throughout.
“Looking at character references and the difficulties that [they] faced at the time, but also the frequency of breaches and level of intrusion of numerous individuals; sadly despite their otherwise good record, the breaches were so severe that this was the only outcome available.”
The former officer will be sent a notice of the verdict in the coming days and offered a right to appeal the verdict, despite their previous admittance to the offences.