Former PCSO pleads guilty after searching cadets’ records

A former Essex police community support Officer (PCSO) who looked up details of teenage cadets on police systems has been convicted in court following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Jan 19, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Volunteer police cadet leader Tristan Adams, aged 41, accessed a police computer system in May 2019 to view the personal record of two police cadets who were both were under 18 at the time.

He also looked at police investigation files relating to one of the children, despite having no legitimate policing purpose for carrying out any of these searches.

Adams pleaded guilty at Basildon Crown Court to unlawfully obtaining data, under the Data Protection Act 2018. He was handed a £1,000 fine and ordered to repay court costs.

Former PCSO Adams, who resigned from Essex Police in December 2021, began volunteering as a police cadet leader in March 2019.

The IOPC investigation began following a mandatory conduct referral from Essex Police in December 2019, which related to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the PCSO to a volunteer cadet and searching cadets’ personal records on a police system.

“At the conclusion of our investigation in February 2021 we sent a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service which authorised charges under the Data Protection Act 2018 and Computer Misuse Act 1990,” said the IOPC. “The second charge relating to computer misuse will lie on file.”

IOPC regional director Mel Palmer said: “All police staff are aware that accessing a person’s record on police systems must only be done when there is a legitimate purpose and that staff who misuse these systems risk being prosecuted.

“Despite this, former PCSO Adams viewed person records for two young cadets, including a home address and police investigations linked to both children.

“His unlawful actions have now resulted in a criminal conviction and should send a message to all police staff that there are serious consequences for those who misuse police systems.”

At the end of its investigation, the IOPC also decided that the PCSO should face a gross misconduct hearing for potential breaches of the police standards of professional behaviour.

A hearing was arranged by the force in February 2022 and Adams was found guilty of gross misconduct for misusing police systems to look up cadet members without a policing purpose and for his inappropriate behaviour towards one of the cadets, which included a large number of messages sent to the child from his personal mobile number.

A disciplinary panel found he would have been dismissed without notice had he not already resigned. He has also been placed on the police barred list.

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