High-flying detective was in charge of Leeds burglary team when she bent the rules to catch suspects

Elizabeth Belton was the senior officer responsible for tackling Leeds's out-of-control burglary rates when she hatched the plot to corrupt an investigation against two suspected burglars.

Elizabeth Belton
Elizabeth Belton

At the time of the offences, in 2013, the city was dubbed the 'burglary capital of Britain'.

Elizabeth Belton locked up in disgrace over police stitch-upsBelton had been hand picked by West Yorkshire Police's chief constable to crack down on house break-ins.

These are the incriminating text messages sent by corrupt Elizabeth Belton A packed courtroom watched today as Belton's high flying career came to an ignominious end as she was led away to custody in tears.

Belton sobbed throughout much of the sentencing hearing as her barrister described how an "indomitable spirit" had seen her rise through the ranks after joining the force as a young PC in 1990.

Almost three decades on, Leeds Crown Court heard Belton is now a "sensitive, vulnerable and fragile" woman with depression and suicidal tendencies.

Lisa Roberts, for Belton, described the defendant as having a "tough outer shell" with the determination and ambition to succeed.

She said: "How else does a woman in her twenties in the 1990s in West Yorkshire rise through her profession in the way that she undoubtedly has done.

"In that particular time - it was a very different era - there was very little she would see to encourage or promote her.

"At that time there was a good deal to trample on that indomitable spirit that she has."

Ms Roberts told Judge Tom Bayliss, QC, he was now looking at a different woman sat in the dock before him.

She said: "She is a sensitive, a vulnerable and a fragile woman in her early fifties who has family responsibilities like many of her age.

"You will imprison her, as no doubt it will be reported, as a disgraced police officer.

"But you will imprison a mother. You will imprison a single mother of a 14-year-old daughter."

Belton joined the force as a 22-year-old and was promoted to a uniform inspector in 2004 after achieving the highest mark of 99 per cent in a West Yorkshire Police assessment.

Ms Roberts said: "She has held many and varied roles, all benefiting from her devotion and tenacity.

"Her love of front line policing can be doubted by no one."

A further promotion came in 2008 when she became a chief inspector.

In 2013 - the year she was responsible for orchestrating the conspiracy against the burglary suspects - she was put in charge of an operation to tackle spiraling burglary rates in Leeds.

At that time the city was dubbed the 'burglary capital of Britain'.

In the same year she was also selected to chair police misconduct hearings.

She then went on to become detective chief inspector and joined the force's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team.

In 2015 she took over the cold case investigation into the murder of teenager Elsie Frost.

The 14-year-old was murdered in an underpass beneath a railway line in Wakefield in 1965.

Ms Roberts said members of Elsie's family were in court to support Belton her out of "loyalty" as they were grateful for the work she had done on the case.

The barrister said Belton has struggled mentally since being arrested almost three years ago.

She added: "The knock on the door came early on March 8, 2016.

"For nearly three years she has had these serious matters, the proceedings, to contemplate. To live, to breathe and fear."

Judge Bayliss told Belton he had "no doubt" that she was the officer who instigated the conspiracy.

He said: "No judge, in looking at a woman like you, can take any pleasure in the sentencing exercise which I must undertake.

"As the jury found on the clearest of evidence, you two agreed to corrupt an identification procedure.

"Over the next two days you put that agreement in to effect."

The judge told Belton: "You are indeed a forceful character.

"I have no doubt, Elizabeth Belton, that the genesis of that idea to get the photographs was yours.

"You took over and you instigated what followed. You were - in your own words - fitting up the two men. Why else would there be that text?

"You were driving a coach and horses through the process to ensure the fairness and integrity of identification procedures.

"You corrupted not only that investigation but yourselves - all that you stood for as police officers.

"The public must be able to trust the police to uphold their rights. how can the public do that when senior police officers are subverting those rights

"As police officers you are not above the law. This isn;t a country where police can do what they want."