Officer involved in civil dispute did not use police computers to gain woman’s details

Published Date: 03.11.2014

The Police Ombudsman has found that a police officer did not commit any misconduct after being accused of using police computers to look up information on a relative of person she was in a personal dispute with.

The Office investigated the claims after it received a complaint from a woman who said she had received a letter from the officer addressed personally to her, even though the two did not know each other.  She was concerned that the officer had abused her position as a police officer by searching police databases to find information about her.

As the use of police information systems for personal purposes would constitute either a breach of the PSNI Code of Ethics or even a criminal offence, investigators carried out a full enquiry into what happened.

They obtained all relevant police documentation in relation to the matter.  On being issued with formal notification of the complaint the officer concerned stated that she was involved in a personal dispute with relatives of the woman, and had justifiable cause to send her the letter.  She stated that she had obtained the woman’s details from people she knew in a private capacity rather than by accessing the police’s database.

She also stated that she was aware of the difficulties she faced as a police officer when having to resolve a civil matter and had done everything she could to keep the two roles separate.  She had followed legal advice and at all times had kept her line managers aware of the situation.

Under powers granted to them investigators from the Police Ombudsman’s Office checked police databases for the period in question and were able to establish that there were no attempts by the officer to access any records relating to the complainant.

The complaint was therefore closed as unsubstantiated.

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