New police shock as figures show 200 officers and staff were disciplined for illegally looking up crime details
- Over 200 police officers caught illegally accessing photos they should not be
- 123 officers and 80 staff were disciplined for breaching rules on data security
- Former officer Oliver Perry-Smith used police software to find women for sex
- Many misused police databases to spy on family, colleagues and neighbours
- Officers got away with a warning or were told to ‘reflect’ on their misdemeanour
More than 200 police officers and staff have been caught illegally accessing photos of crime scenes, suspects and details of cases.
The revelation follows outrage last year when two Scotland Yard officers were revealed to have photographed murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman as they manned a police cordon.
PCs Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis were jailed in December for more than two years after sharing the pictures on social media.
But now figures from police forces show that scores of other officers secretly viewed and downloaded photographs from crime scenes, exhibits, body-worn video cameras and post-mortems in 2020-21. More than 200 officers and staff were caught illegally accessing their force’s database for details about crimes, suspects, witnesses and victims.
Statistics released under Freedom of Information law show 123 officers and 80 civilian staff were disciplined for breaching police rules on database security – nearly four people every week. The true figure is likely to be higher as only 32 out of 44 forces in England and Wales responded to requests.
In a quarter of cases the culprit was either fired or resigned before the case went to a disciplinary hearing but many got away with just a warning or were told to ‘reflect’ on their misdemeanour of accessing police databases for non work related reasons
In South Wales, a civilian member of staff took footage from police body-worn video cameras and posted it on social media.
At Thames Valley Police, a community support officer used the force’s computer systems to view pictures of murder suspects in custody at the time for ‘no policing purpose’. The same force admitted staff had looked up confidential information on their systems and passed it on to third parties.
In some recent cases, officers used the confidential information to pursue women for sex.
In April, former Thames Valley police officer Oliver Perry-Smith was jailed for three-and-a-half years after he used police software to find out confidential information about women, such as a vehicle registration to find a name and address so he could pester them for sex.
Frequently officers and staff misused their access to police databases to snoop on family, colleagues and neighbours.
Cambridgeshire police said it had cases where police systems were searched by people snooping for details of family members.
At Devon and Cornwall Police, two officers got into trouble for looking up confidential details on their own children. And a Norfolk police officer resigned after they were caught using the Police National Computer to get details relating to a work colleague.
Nearly four police staff were disciplined for breaching rules on database security every week
Overall, in about a quarter of cases, the culprit was either fired or resigned before the case went to a disciplinary hearing. However, many got away with just a warning or were told to ‘reflect’ on their misdemeanour.
The scale of unauthorised access to police databases will raise concerns about corruption.
Earlier this year, an inspection of Scotland Yard warned that the force did not have adequate IT systems to root out corrupt officers who could pass on information to criminals.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services said: ‘Protecting this information is vital to integrity and operational effectiveness. Forces must therefore be able to monitor and audit all their IT systems to help identify individuals who misuse them for corrupt activity.
‘This could include inappropriate access to personal information, passing on information to organised crime gangs or using systems to identify vulnerable victims for sexual abuse.’