A former Cheshire Constabulary officer has been found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct for misusing force systems.
Claire Ford, a former police constable based in Crewe, was due to attend an accelerated misconduct hearing on Thursday 26 January.
However, the 39-year-old resigned from the force on Monday 17 October and chose not to participate in the hearing.
Despite her resignation, the hearing went ahead, and the panel found Mrs Ford had breached the standards of professional behaviour regarding confidentiality and discreditable conduct.
The outcome means that Mrs Ford has now been added to the College of Policing Barred List, meaning she is prevented from working in law enforcement in the future.
The misconduct panel stated that had she still been a serving police officer he would have been dismissed without notice.
The accusations against Mrs Ford, who became an officer in 2010, came to light in September 2021 when police in Staffordshire Police seized a mobile phone from a suspect in an assault case.
The suspect was a friend of Mrs Ford’s and, when analysing the phone, officers discovered a number of WhatsApp messages between the pair in relation to two incidents in Cheshire, which occurred in November 2018 and December 2020.
While Ford was not involved in the Cheshire cases, enquiries revealed that she had been accessing the case files and sharing confidential information with the suspect.
Following the discovery Mrs Ford was arrested and subsequently charged with five counts of Computer Misuse and Breach of data protection.
She appeared at Chester Crown Court on Thursday 15 December where she was handed a suspended eight-month prison sentence and ordered to complete 200 hours community service after pleading guilty to the charges.
Following the hearing, Detective Superintendent Helena Banusic, Head of the Professional Standards Department, said: “Police officers are placed in a position of trust and there are clear guidelines about the standards expected from them, including their responsibilities in relation to accessing and sharing police information.
“Mrs Ford was well aware of these standards, but she chose to put her friendship above them, by blatantly misusing police systems to gain confidential information. Her personal behaviour was totally inappropriate for a serving police officer.
“While she resigned before the misconduct hearing and pleaded guilty to the charges in court, that does not in any way excuse her behaviour.
“I hope that the outcome of the hearing reassures the public that we take any concerns regarding the behaviour of officers extremely seriously and staff in these circumstances cannot seek to avoid being held to account by simply resigning from their roles.”
Deputy Chief Constable Chris Armitt said: “It is essential that the people of Cheshire have both confidence and trust in the service we deliver.
“We actively promote the highest standards of personal and professional behaviour and integrity to all officers and staff, and we are committed to rooting out those who do not meet these standards.
“I want to ensure that anyone who turns to us for help or who finds themselves in need of our assistance can be completely confident that they will be treated with the courtesy, respect and professionalism they deserve.
“In this case Mrs Ford’s behaviour fell well below the level expected of a serving officer and she grossly undermined the privileged position that his role as a member of Cheshire Constabulary demands and expects.”
Anyone who wishes to make a complaint, or compliment, about the service that they have received from Cheshire Constabulary can contact the Professional Standards Department on 101, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org