Officer dismissed following multiple unauthorised computer searches

A Cambridgeshire Constabulary officer has been dismissed without notice after audit checks revealed she had made more than 70 unauthorised computer searches for non-policing purposes.

Jun 16, 2020
By Tony Thompson

Police Constable Lorna Thorley first came to the attention of the force’s Professional Standards Department in June 2019 when a supervisor in the Child Abuse Investigation Unit became concerned that PC Thorley had contacted a member of their team to ascertain information regarding a person that was under investigation.

Subsequent checks revealed that between January 28, 2013, and February 18, 2019, PC Thorley had accessed police systems on 17 separate days, conducting 71 searches for non-policing purposes. All the searches related to members of her own family.

At a special case hearing, held at Cambridgeshire Constabulary headquarters in Huntingdon on June 12, PC Thorley was found to have breached standards in respect of orders and instructions, confidentiality, authority, respect and courtesy.

In his findings published at the conclusion of the case, Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “This has not been a ‘one- off’ incident which could have been seen as a lapse of judgment. Unauthorised access was over a sustained number of years, access which PC Thorley knew was seriously wrong.

“It cannot be clearer within the policing environment that to access data for non-policing purposes is wrong, whatever the apparent motivation for doing so. The data itself contained personal information of a sensitive nature relating to a number of individuals, the fact that these individuals were close family members matters not.

“Continual breaches of personal privacy were conducted. I have considered the submission that PC Thorley conducted the checks for ‘safeguarding reasons’, however I am not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the information obtained was acted upon in this regard.

“PC Thorley has a service record that outlines her work within a specialist area, dealing and building confidence with vulnerable victims. Each breach was not a spontaneous act, with her background and experience it should have been at the forefront of her mind that to access this information was in breach of standards expected.

“The public trust the police service to hold and access data in line with the law; if that trust is eroded the wider confidence in us as a public service no longer exists. Misuse of police computer systems and information is a particular concern for the police service; this makes this case all the more serious; it has been subject of repeated misconduct procedures and the College of Policing guidance on outcomes in police misconduct proceedings provide that,‘’ personal reasons for accessing confidential police information such as general curiosity or a desire to check on criminal activity are not acceptable’’.

“The harm to the reputation of Cambridgeshire Constabulary and indeed the wider police service cannot be underestimated when cases such as this come to notice.

“The police service and the public expect that all its officers and staff to act in manner that does not bring discredit to the service or harm its reputation. The public expect that these standards are upheld. The conduct that PC Thorley has displayed falls way short of these standards. I have considered this case in full and find that PC Thorley’s conduct amounts to gross misconduct.”

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