Former police officer gets 27 months

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A FORMER Tayside Police officer, who was found guilty of breaching the Data Protection Act and two charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice, was sentenced at Dundee Sheriff Court on Thursday to 27 months.

Karen Howie (34), who has resigned from the force, admitted passing details about an investigation into a counterfeiting ring to 44-year-old bathroom tradesman Neil Hand. She also admitted breaching the Data Protection Act by accessing police computer systems to uncover details of an ongoing investigation into a counterfeiting operation.

Hand then passed the information, which was obtained from the police computer system, on to a suspect in the case. The suspect lifted the lid on the illegal activity when he was questioned by police in relation to counterfeit currency in Arbroath.

Howie, of Panmure Estate, Carnoustie, was working at Kirriemuir Police Office in August, 2009, when she committed the crimes.

Procurator Fiscal Catriona Dalrymple told Sheriff Elizabeth Munro: “The circumstances came to light with the apprehension of an individual in Arbroath in relation to counterfeit currency. He gave specialist information regarding a serving police officer. It was clear that he was trying to use this information as leverage.

“He identified Karen Howie and an investigation was launched. Professional Standards found that Howie had looked at information relating to the suspect on several occasions.”

Tayside Police were keen to trace, interview and search the home address of the suspect but he was tipped off when Howie passed details of a planned warrant on to Hand, who alerted him.

Hand, of East Row, Westhaven, Carnoustie, admitted one charge of breaching the Data Protection act by receiving information passed on to him by Howie which he then passed on to the man at the centre of the police probe.

On July 8, 2009, Howie also falsified records that Hand held valid car insurance after he was pulled over by officers at Knapdale Place, Dundee.

Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie, in charge of Professional Standards for the Force, said: “Members of the public entrust the police service to uphold the law with the highest standards of integrity and we take very seriously our duty to preserve that level of trust.

“Where there is any evidence of wrongdoing by a police officer we are absolutely committed to taking robust and positive action to investigate the circumstances, as we have done in this case, and report the matter to the Procurator Fiscal.

“Corrupt officers have no place in Tayside Police and it is disappointing that on occasion we find ourselves with individuals who want to discredit the reputation of the Force and their colleagues.”

He concluded: “Criminal behaviour of this nature is exceptionally rare and the vast majority of our police officers and police staff act with integrity and honesty day in and day out. Our collective dismay at this case is only tempered by our resolve to ensure that we continue to investigate every allegation of wrongdoing and retain public trust and confidence.”