A lonely and debt-ridden police constable stole money seized in police raids and used the force computer to contact women after a relationship ended.
James Hughes, who had been based at West Yorkshire’s City and Holbeck division in Leeds, was jailed for 12 months at Leeds Crown Court yesterday having previously admitted theft and three charges of misconduct in a public office
The court was told he was lonely and £60,000 in debt after a relationship came to an end.
He used the force computer to access information about three women and stole nearly £4,000 which had been recovered in police raids.
The offences took place between February 2010 and July last year.
An earlier court hearing was told the money had been recovered at raids at suspected brothels and lapdancing clubs.
He was able to steal the money, which was stored in bags, because he was an exhibits officer.
Yesterday, prosecutor Richard Walters told the court Hughes had been lonely, heavily in debt, spending money on women and “trying to impress people”.
He described how on 24 occasions Hughes accessed information about a leisure club receptionist whose details were on the police computer system after her flatmate was arrested.
He also accessed the details of a woman whose handbag had been stolen, looking at her details three times in three minutes on one occasion.
A third woman had her computer details accessed on seven occasions, the court was told.
Hughes did not use the information for commercial gain or profit and initially he had accessed the details for legitimate police purposes. However, the court was told he did eventually use the information for his “personal life”, in trying to cultivate relationships with the women.
Police matched his mobile phone billing to the people whose data he had accessed on the police computer system.
Hughes, 31, from Leeds, resigned from his job with West Yorkshire Police last July.
Judge Neil Clark said the matters were so serious and the breach of trust so significant that a custodial sentence was necessary.
He added: “It gives me no pleasure in having to deal with someone like you in this court. You have let yourself and those who admire, trust and support you down.”
He said the police officer, who was highly regarded, had committed a “dreadful breach of trust”.
Nicholas Worsley, mitigating, said his client was devastated as his “entire life is the police force”.
He told the court his client’s life had spiralled out of control when a relationship ended and “depression set in”.
He said he had been “batting above himself” in terms of the relationship and as a result had got into debt through buying presents and holidays.
“This is a man who has lost everything,” he added.