back to article Liverpool cops compulsively snooped footballer's record

Merseyside Police officers were caught illegally accessing the Police National Computer over 200 times in the last three years. But almost half of these were to do with one footballer: 130 members of staff at Merseyside Police were caught looking at Steven Gerrard's file. The numbers come from a Freedom of Information request …

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Typical

If I am caught illegally accessing a computer system, I'll have the UK judiciary (and probably the US) climbing all over me. Prison time and or extradition in all likelihood. But if you're a cop and illegally access a computer system, then basically SFA happens

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FAIL

Same thing goes on in the US.

Far too many cops feel they are above the law. Most are pond scum, at best.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

They haven't illegally accessed a computer system. Their job gives them the right to access it.

What they have done is access a record that they did not have justification for accessing.

There is a whole world of difference between accessing a computer system that you have no right to access and looking up a record that you have no justification for looking up.

If you do the former then you will be prosecuted. If you do the later then you will suffer sanctions at work. That is what has happened in this case.

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FAIL

@AC14:59

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/section/17

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/section/21

They HAVE illegally accessed a computer system.

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Facepalm

Illegal access

"They haven't illegally accessed a computer system. Their job gives them the right to access it."

Their job gives them the right to access it for appropriate usage.

Their job also have the right to access and use certain weapons, but if they started shooting them randomly at strangers they would be illegally using them (even if they are ABLE to use them legally, in this situation they are NOT USING THEM LEGALLY).

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Anonymous Coward

Most are not pond scum, at best.

I'm not a police officer and hold no brief for them.

Most, like the rest of us, are trying to do a difficult job in testing circumstances.

Some are complete arse-holes who give a whole new meaning to 'corrupt incompetents' but probably there are no more than in any other professional organisation. The magpies in any professions, Politics included, get the rest a bad name and should be weeded out with the utmost prejudice as an example to others. We cannot afford for the law to come into disrepute by either lawyers, judges, politician, the police or the public thinking they are above it.

Only through the law can justice be achieved. everything else is vengance.

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@AC Re: Title

There are loads of work related policies that can lead to sanctions including dismissal. If my employer so wished I could be fired for writing this comment during work time. I can access all sorts of things from my work place but if I did so I would expect to be fired. No doubt such policies are in force for police officers, whether an actual criminal act has taken place is besides the point, they abused a position of privilege and should be punished.

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Not the same

Unauthorized access to a database will land you in serious trouble. You're not a user and you break in using stolen credentials or other means to get into the system.

If you are authorized to use a system but use it improperly then you're subject to whatever conditions your employer chooses to sanction you.

I think considering the nature of the database that in the first instance written warnings would be sufficient and following that, more severe penalties would have to be considered including dismissal / demotion / unpaid leave and so on. Unless you have a valid reason to be looking up a high profile person's information you shouldn't be doing it. I also doubt that all the offenders were cops - there are so many civilians (data operators etc.) inside police stations it's as likely one of them.

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Re: Title

Technically, you may be right, but you're missing the flipping point.

We're told about how there are proper procedures, proper systems of supervision and accountability, and all that, so that such things can't happen without serious consequences for those who flout the rules. At least, that's the impression we're deliberately given. And yet, despite everything that's supposed to deter and stop police from abusing such powers, it's clear that such abuses are routine with little being done about it.

This is simply unacceptable, and not something to be defended or excused with pedantry.

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Anonymous Coward

Quite

Even if [as has happened in the past] you use that legal access to find the address of someone you then "proposition" ?

Or even give the detail to someone who then kills the related person ?

I could go-on at length about the crimes that have resulted from legal access, and resulting ILLEGAL dissemination of gained information by serving police officers, some paid for that information.

It was widespread mis-use that lead to a major enquiry and new "rules" about 14 years ago. Seems it made not a jot of difference.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Title

Ethical and professional considerations aside, the lad above is right: this type of action does not constitute a violation of CMA 1990 however you look at it. And it shouldn't, or otherwise we'd all be guilty of a criminal offence every time we use the wrong printer, access the building tailing somebody else, or browse the company directory for that hot chick working across the building.

That said, this appears to be common across police forces. It's the same with my local (non-UK) force, except that the investigating units generally have the sense to preemptively restrict access to records with high gossip potential.

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It's not pedantry

"This is simply unacceptable, and not something to be defended or excused with pedantry."

It's not pedantry. People accessing this database are authorized to do so, so it is not a breach in law. It may be a breach in their terms of employment and is therefore a disciplinary matter.

There are also more civilian staff then there are police in the police force. It's therefore likely that most of the offenders here were civilians such as data operators, not coppers. And yeah they should be reprimanded and if necessary sacked. Doesn't mean we should conflate unauthorized access (a criminal offence) with authorized but improper access (an employment offence) and pretend it's being pedantic to make the distinction.

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Anonymous Coward

RE; Most are NOT pond scum

Whereas I agree that most police are not themselves bent in any direct way, simple logic tells you that most of the straight filth know who the bent pigs are and what they are doing. That the allegedly un-pond scum rozzers then chose to do nothing aboiut grassing up their colleagues and cleaning up the forces' [tarnished] image calls any statement regarding police honesty and integrity seriously into question.

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Joke

More breakdown please

What percentage were Liverpool fans and what percentage Everton ones?

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Silver badge

It's only the police

Your ID card, census and NHS data would be perfectly secure

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Anonymous Coward

Another gripping episode of The Untouchables !

nuff said.

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Anonymous Coward

Gerrard's File?

What's the point. Just see him in the hot tub at his secret Southport gym and ask him.

Anon, because he may never speak to me again.

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Unhappy

Pond Scum?

Both cream and scum rise to the top!

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FAIL

Not too bright or self-disciplined

What surprises me is that so many officers are oblivious to the fact that their activities will be automatically recorded, despite presumably being told about this beforehand.

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Anonymous Coward

And if you have seen the CCTV footage...

.. you would wonder how the hell he was ever acquitted.

Isn't the justice system wonderful.

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Facepalm

as a Liverpool fan, i am glad....

, i am glad he was acquitted and I honestly believe he was provoked into his actions........

BUT...

Like Ken Dodd before him who was clearly guilty of tax evasion and has even joked about it on TV, putting someone who is much loved in the local community on trial in their home town is a bad idea. What is the real chance of getting an unbiased jury?

once I seen that Steve G along with Ken were on trial at Liverpool Crown court I would have bet money on aquittal !!

face/palm, because thats what the Crown prossicution would have done after both trials...

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Unhappy

would you?

I wouldn't wonder, I'm fairly sure it's because he is a famous footballer with tons of cash...

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Anonymous Coward

I am not a title

> putting someone who is much loved...

He is loved so much by his team mates and colleagues that they where queueing up around the block to act as character witnesses.

In the end he chose a priest and an ex player/manager. Curious that.

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Big Brother

It's ok

...If he's got nothing to hide, he's got nothing to fear...

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Megaphone

Smile

"...If he's got nothing to hide, he's got nothing to fear..."

The same could be said about photographing the police

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Holmes

Bite the hand that feeds...

Odd that the local paper choose to publish this given that in many cases, it is the press that are the recipients of information "leaked" from "secure" databases.

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Megaphone

It's wrong - but....

... watch any TV plodumentary (Spin), then read the comments on Inspector Gadget's blog, and you will see a demotivated operation trying to deal with an overwhelming burden of politically correct BS in the face of scumbags, whilst preserving a pension. I condemn their actions in this case but understand why they occurred.

It's not the front line coppers that are at fault. It's the overpaid, self-gratifying Chief Constables and their amazing affrontery at defying the Home Sec's demand of 'No more targets' (aka Just CATCH CRIMS)

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Thumb Up

so they *can* identify who accesses a record on the PNC.

There is *actually* an audit trail.

Funny whenever some member of the general public has their personal information screwed up (as described on El Reg previously) it's "Sorry we don't hold a record of who accessed your records, changed them and f**ked up your life for 6 months."

Of course audit trails are only useful when they lead to trials, preferably of the criminal variety, or at least dismissal.

Thumbs up for a local paper doing a bit of proper *investigative* journalism for once.

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Stop

I heard of an Avon and Somerset plod

Who uses the PNC to check out his daughters boyfriends. Apparently this is a criminal offence but that doesn't stop him.

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Holmes

Get a sense of proportion

Amongst any group of individuals with privileged access to data you're going to get some misuse of that privilege. How serious the sanctions are should be based upon how serious the misuse. Better to get younger inexperienced cops disciplined so they gain a better understanding of the issues over minor offences than have them learning how to cover up more serious offences. Looking up a record on a popular local footballer they shouldn't probably should not be a sacking offence. Using records inappropriately to get financial gain or cover up more serious lawbreaking should be another matter entirely.

Whether normal (i.e. imperfect) newly trained police officers become responsible or crooked as more experienced officers will depend greatly upon how such incidents are dealt with early on in their careers.

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Joke

Looking Bad

The thing is, bent cops make the other 0.1 % look bad ;-)

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LPF
Facepalm

In the case of Gerrard..

The police wanted to have him tried somewhere else, but the CPS refused to move it, as they knew he would have been found guilty anywhere else..

First time in history I have heard of hitting someone first while surrounded by your mates is a case of self defence!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In the case of Gerrard..

"First time in history I have heard of hitting someone first while surrounded by your mates is a case of self defence!"

You and I clearly don't have the same mates.

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Facepalm

hitting them first

and second and third etc

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Anonymous Coward

First Time?

What about Lee Bowyer? I believe that Ian Hislop said something about being tried by a jury of your fans...

He was found not guilty, his non-leeds untd mate who was also up on trial was found guilty.

All I'm going to say is that in the "Leeds" entry for "you know you've lived in a town too long" a popular email doing the rounds at the time it said: You think nothing of it when you see a leeds united player behind the Majestic shagging a blonde/beating up a student...

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Joke

Did you hear the one,,,

... about the sheik's son who wanted a sandpit for his birthday so his father bought him the Sahara Desert

The next year the son wanted a construction set so his father bought him Costain (http://www.costain.com)

The following year the son wanted a cowboy outfit so his father bought him the Merseyside Police.

- This joke was told me by a relatively recently hired Merseyside Policewoman twenty-something years ago. You know who you are, Claire!

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Anonymous Coward

Worth bearing in mind...

It's worth bearing in mind that the fact that these are recorded and the Police can tell you exactly what happened to the mis-users of the database is a very good thing. This speaks volumes for the progress that has been made by the police since some of their rather murky history in the 80s and before.

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If the cops only get the naughty finger

for illegally looking up a *celebrity's* record, you can just imagine what the (non-)consequences would be for cops looking up yours or mine.

This is where the Big Brother state really comes into its own. If the Party enforcers decide they don't like you, they can ruin your life and there's sod-all you can do about it. The problem is that the sort of people who join the police are the same people who get drunk on power over others. Shit floats and all that.

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Joke

Don't look Ethel !

Too late, she looked...

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