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PC James Hughes was jailed for 12 months at Leeds Crown Court in May 2012. An exhibits officer based at West Yorkshire Police’s City and Holbeck Division in Leeds, he had admitted theft and three charges of misconduct in a public office.
Hughes (pictured above) had used the force computer systems to access personal information about three women and stole around £4,000 from a police property store at Holbeck police station (pictured top right). The offences took place between February 2010 and July 2012 and the theft concerned money that had been recovered from raids at premises suspected as being used as brothels and lapdancing clubs. His role handling exhibits (the money and not the lapdancers pictured top left) gave him the opportunity to steal the cash, which was stored in police evidence bags.
CPS prosecuting counsel, Richard Walters, told Leeds Crown Court that Hughes had been lonely, heavily in debt, spending money on women and “trying to impress people”. He set out how Hughes accessed information about a leisure club receptionist whose details were placed on the police computer database after her flatmate was arrested. He did this no less than twenty four times. 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 seven times.
Hughes claimed that he did not use the information for commercial gain or profit and further claimed that at first he had accessed the details for legitimate police purposes. However, he did eventually rely on the information gleaned for personal gratification, in trying to cultivate relationships with these women.
Hughes was trapped when his own Professional Standards detective colleagues matched his mobile phone billing to the women he had accessed on the police database.
Judge Neil Clark described the matters as so serious and the breach of trust so significant that a custodial sentence was unavoidable. “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.” The Judge added that 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”. Mr Worsley added that 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.”
Hughes, 31, from Leeds, resigned from West Yorkshire Police in July 2011.
uPSD are also investigating the disappearance of two separate cash exhibit bags stolen from Trafalgar House Police Station which is Bradford South Divisional HQ. The total haul taken from a police safe was around £12,000. ex-PC James Hughes is not involved in these thefts.
Trafalgar House on Nelson Street, Bradford has recently achieved huge nationwide print and broadcast media coverage as a result of a takeaway delivery man, dressed as Batman, handing in a wanted burglar to police officers, there. Despite circulating messages regularly on social media not a single news outlet was prepared to run with the cash theft from a police safe story. It just beggars belief and makes what uPSD do 100 times harder than it should be.
Another West Yorkshire Police Exhibits Officer currently in the news is elite Organised Crime Squad detective, Nick McFadden. He is currently on trial at Leeds Crown Court accused of stealing a staggering £3.52 million worth of siezed drugs from his own police force. He has already admitted money laundering charges. For full story click here.