Police officer cautioned over improper access of police systems

Published Date: 05.01.2017

A police officer has received an adult caution after admitting breaching data protection legislation by improperly accessing police records.

A Police Ombudsman investigation found that the officer – who was being investigated over an allegation of assault made against him by a member of the public – had accessed records relating to that case and a similar case involving an off-duty colleague.

The issue first came to light during a routine police audit which showed that the officer had accessed records from the investigation into his colleague’s conduct.

The matter was referred by police to the Police Ombudsman, whose investigators then asked police to check whether the officer had also accessed records about the investigation into his own conduct. Another audit showed that he had.

When interviewed, the officer accepted that he had no lawful reason for accessing records in relation to either case.

Officer had no lawful reason for accessing records, but had not shared any information with anyone else.

However, no evidence was found to indicate that he had shared any information from the records with anyone else.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, concluded that the officer had breached the Data Protection Act and submitted a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

After considering the evidence, the PPS directed that the officer should be prosecuted for common assault and offences relating to data protection and computer misuse. But after consultation, the PPS offered the officer an adult caution, which he accepted.

The Police Ombudsman subsequently submitted a misconduct file to the PSNI, recommending that the officer should be disciplined in relation to his conduct. The PSNI has since disciplined the officer.

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