Ex­treme-porn of­fi­cer mis­used po­lice data­base

Western Mail - - NEWS - LIZ DAY Re­porter liz.day@waleson­line.co.uk

Apo­lice of­fi­cer pre­vi­ously pun­ished for shar­ing “ap­palling footage” in a What­sApp hol­i­day group chat was also caught mis­us­ing the Po­lice Na­tional Com­puter.

Christopher Owen was given a com­mu­nity order in July last year for pos­sess­ing ex­treme pornog­ra­phy and was fined on Tues­day for un­law­fully ob­tain­ing per­sonal data.

Sen­tenc­ing him at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Eleri Rees noted the of­fend­ing was “par­tic­u­larly shock­ing” be­cause he was in­volved in train­ing new po­lice of­fi­cers at the time.

Roger Grif­fiths, pros­e­cut­ing, said the po­lice started in­ves­ti­gat­ing the de­fen­dant at the end of 2016 re­gard­ing al­leged mis­use of the com­puter sys­tem.

Mr Grif­fiths told the court: “He was a serv­ing po­lice of­fi­cer at the time of these of­fences.”

The court heard Owen ac­cessed the Po­lice Na­tional Com­puter – which holds records of peo­ple’s con­vic­tions and cau­tions – for non­po­lice pur­poses.

Pros­e­cu­tors said he would have seen a re­minder ev­ery time he logged in that the sys­tem should only be used for po­lice work and any other use was a crim­i­nal of­fence.

The counts re­lated to Fe­bru­ary 14, 2015, and March 10, 2016, when he ob­tained per­sonal in­for­ma­tion with­out the con­sent of the data con­troller.

Mr Grif­fiths said the pros­e­cu­tion could not prove that he dis­closed the data to any­one else.

When he was in­ter­viewed, Owen said his use of the sys­tem was le­git­i­mate.

Judge Rees dealt with him last year in re­la­tion to other ma­te­rial found on his phone.

On that oc­ca­sion, the court heard col­leagues found “ap­palling” videos of ex­treme pornog­ra­phy on his phone.

Owen ad­mit­ted two counts of pos­sess­ing ex­treme porno­graphic im­ages.

Mark Cot­ter QC, rep­re­sent­ing him at that hear­ing, em­pha­sised Owen was not watch­ing the videos for sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion and sug­gested the case showed “real dan­gers” of us­ing What­sApp.

The court heard he joined a group on the mes­sag­ing app to or­gan­ise a group hol­i­day.

Mr Cot­ter added: “This is a sit­u­a­tion where the im­ages were ex­changed for shock value.”

Judge Rees de­scribed the im­ages as “ap­palling”, adding: “Be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer, he was in a bet­ter po­si­tion than most to un­der­stand the se­ri­ous­ness.”

He was given a 12-month com­mu­nity order, re­quir­ing him to com­plete 15 days of a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ac­tiv­ity and com­ply with a four-month cur­few, as well as pay­ing £145 to­wards costs.

In her sen­tenc­ing re­marks then, Judge Rees told the de­fen­dant: “You will pay a heavy price.”

Mr Grif­fiths con­firmed Owen has since been dis­missed from the po­lice.

The 41-year-old, from Park­wood in Gow­er­ton, Swansea, ad­mit­ted ob­tain­ing per­sonal data.

He­len Ran­dall, mit­i­gat­ing, asked for credit for his guilty plea, even though it came at a late stage, stress­ing that no wit­nesses had to come to court and that the of­fences dated back two years.

Judge Rees de­scribed the of­fend­ing as a “gross breach of trust”.

She noted he had been serv­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer for 15 years and told the de­fen­dant it was hard to un­der­stand his mo­ti­va­tion.

The judge said it was “par­tic­u­larly shock­ing” he would dis­re­gard the rules he was fully aware of while train­ing new po­lice of­fi­cers.

Owen was fined £1,250 on each count and or­dered to pay £1,200 to­wards pros­e­cu­tion costs along with a £120 vic­tim sur­charge.

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