WEST Midlands Police has promised ‘no hiding place’ for any officers who believe they’re above the law and let the public down by abusing their position in the force.
The warning comes as a former detective was jailed for carrying out illegal searches on police IT systems and leaking confidential information to a convicted drug dealer.
Daniel Watts was sacked on 29 August last year by West Midlands Police for gross misconduct – admitted passing details of police intelligence gathering to Stephen Hunt, including whether officers were planning to arrest criminal associates or carry out raids.
A court heard that 31-year-old Watts – who joined West Midlands Police in 2001 – first made checks for Hunt in April 2005 whilst the 33-year-old was on trial for drug supply but continued up until his arrest in October 2012.
Watts, from Chester Road in Erdington, admitted conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and at Stafford Crown Court on October 18 was jailed for 28 months.
An application to seize all or part of his police pension is underway with the final decision on how much to confiscate being taken by the Home Secretary.
Hunt, from Edge Hill Road in West Heath, denied the same offence but was found guilty following a trial; he was also sent to prison for 28 months and handed an additional 10-years behind bars for drug dealing.
A crown court judge had placed reporting restrictions on the misconduct case but they were lifted yesterday (Jan 13) when Hunt’s drugs trial concluded at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
Superintendent Tim Godwin from West Midlands Police’s Professional Standards Department – the unit tasked with investigating allegations of officer misconduct – said the force demanded the upmost integrity and professionalism from all its officers and staff.
He said: “Police officers take a vow to serve the public and uphold the law with fairness, integrity and impartiality. Any that fall short of those standards, or who abuse their position, will face disciplinary action, the prospect of criminal prosecution and potential dismissal.
“No police officer is above the law. Daniel Watts was a rogue officer who believed he could discretely pass information to a friend in the criminal fraternity – but we have a dedicated team of anti-corruption officers whose job is to uncover any misconduct.
“As soon as Watts’ was suspected of acting improperly an investigation was launched that resulted in his arrested and suspension from duty. He was subsequently sacked by the Chief Constable at an internal hearing, following his guilty plea in court, and has now been jailed.
“His police career is over and he faces the prospect of having his police pension seized; he’s rightly paid a very high price for these breaches of trust and position.”
The court heard that Watts was repeatedly “tasked” by Hunt to obtain information from police computer systems; some of the information related to him personally whilst other material concerned Hunt’s criminal associates.
His illegal IT activity was exposed on 3 March last year when police raided the home of a crime suspect in Northfield where a mobile phone was seized containing a text message that, via another phone, was traced to a mobile used by Watts.
Enquiries showed the message, concerning police warrants executed at addresses of crime suspects, was accurate and could only have been provided from police systems…and that it was confidential information.
Anti-corruption officers were able to prove the message originated from a phone attributable to Watts and was sent when he was on duty and using a police computer work station.
In interview the former detective with Force CID admitted his system checks weren’t for legitimate police business but rather “out of curiosity” or to check the accuracy of what he was being told by Hunt.
At the start of their friendship Watts said the checks were conducted to ensure he wasn’t associating with a criminal – and he claimed not to have sent any confidential or sensitive information, or anything Hunt wouldn’t already have known.
However, he was charged on 29 November 2012 with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office and later went on to admit the offence in court.