PCSO abused position to access information about rape suspect
A police community support officer abused her position to access confidential information about a rape suspect with whom she had an affair.
A court heard Lara Gaunt also made arrangements to buy cocaine and accessed West Yorkshire Police computers for details when her personal trainer was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Leeds Crown Court heard Gaunt, 33, a West Yorkshire PCSO for nine years, would now lose her job and the chance of becoming a police officer on the force.
Gaunt appeared before Leeds Crown Court after pleading guilty to two offences of gaining unauthorised access to computer material and an offence of attempting to possess a class A drug.
Richard Holland, prosecuting, said one of the offences related to a sexual relationship she had with a known offender.
Gaunt illegally accessed police computers on July 9, 2015, to obtain information on an ongoing rape investigation after the man had been arrested.
Gaunt’s mobile phone was examined after she fell under suspicion.
WhatsApp messages revealed she had made arrangements for the same man to supply her with three bags of cocaine for £130.
Mr Holland said Gaunt also illegally accessed police computers on November 4, 2015, and obtained information about her personal trainer after he was arrested on suspicion of assault.
She would have received training as a PCSO which made it clear that she should only access computers for legitimate police purposes, the court was told.
The offending came to light when one of Gaunt’s colleagues made a report to West Yorkshire Police professional standards department that she was associating with known criminals
Adam Walker, mitigating, said: “People in all walks of life become slack.
“She had been with the organisation for nine years. She says this kind of thing happens all the time. I am sure the professional standards department would dispute that.
“She became slack and just fell into the bad habit of going to the computer to satisfy her curiosity in this case.”
Mr Walker said Gaunt’s relationship with the man was at an early stage at the time of the offence.
The barrister said Gaunt, now four months pregnant, accepted that the drug conviction meant she had fell well below the standards expected of an officer.
She also accepted that she would lose her job.
Gaunt was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to pay £670 court costs.
Judge Simon Phillips, QC, said: “The misuse of restricted information in this way is a serious of trust. This has the potential to impact on the reputation of the police force generally.”
After the case, a West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “West Yorkshire Police take very seriously any allegation against their officers and will investigate thoroughly and, as in this case, will pursue to criminal court if appropriate.
“Now the matter has concluded at court, an internal investigation will now be carried out.”