Sheku cop was in “relationship with known criminal”

P.C. Nicole Short Police Scotland Enters Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court 7 Oct 16. See copy Jamie Beatson
P.C. Nicole Short Police Scotland Enters Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court 7 Oct 16. See copy Jamie Beatson

A cop said to have been badly hurt in the incident that led to the death of Sheku Bayoh was “in a relationship with a known criminal” a court heard today (Thursday).

PC Nicole Short was found to have been having a text message conversation with the man at the same time as she was looking up confidential files relating to him and his crimes on the police computer system, a senior cop told her trial.

Short refused to answer questions about whether or not she had leaked the data or had been “pressured” into accessing the secret files during an interview with professional standards officers.

PC Short faces three data protection charges at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court over allegations she accessed confidential files relating to three males “without a policing purpose”.

At pre-trial hearings in the lead up to the trial the court was told she had been involved in an “incident” in Kirkcaldy that left her in a “complicated medical state”.

Her lawyers also asked for reporting of the case to be banned until a fatal accident inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death has been held, or until the conclusion of Short’s case. That move was rejected by the court.

Inspector Alan Seath - now retired from the force - told the second day of Short’s trial that he was asked to investigate allegations against Short in late 2012.

He said: “Intelligence had been received that she was involved in a relationship with a known criminal, a male called Dale Innes, and that she had accessed data about him on the computer systems.”

The court was earlier told entries relating to Dale Innes had been accessed by Short relating to “drug activities”, as well as his brother Matthew Innes, for whom Short viewed intelligence entries relating to heroin dealing, violence and anti-social conduct.

Mr Seath told the court Dale Innes had refused to co-operate with the probe and that he had interviewed Short at Falkirk Police Station on December 20 2012.

A DVD recording of that interview was played at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court today/yesterday [THUR].

In it Short is asked repeated questions about her relationship with Dale Innes and her access to the data - but refuses to answer.

At one point Mr Seath asks: “Did you research these entries to pass information to Mr Innes?”

She replies: “No comment.”

Inspector Seath then asks: “You were researching the systems at the same time as being involved in a conversation with him - I’m wondering if you were passing information from our systems to him via mobile phone?”

Short: “No comment.”

PC Short’s only comments during the interview came when asked about her mobile phone - which she admitted she had destroyed when she was suspended from the force in November 2012.

Inspector Seath asks: “When you were suspended you told me you threw it out of a car window?”

She said: “I’ve already explained that to you.”

Earlier a senior counter-corruption officer from the former Fife Constabulary’s Professional Standards Unit said he saw “no legitimate policing reason” for Short to access the information.

Retired Inspector Gordon Beveridge, 50, was tasked with auditing PC Short’s use of the Fife police Crimefile system and the national Scottish Intelligence Database after concerns were raised.

He said that in a matter of minutes on a date in October 2012 Short’s unique username had been used to access several entries about Dale Innes.

He said: “The user viewed the front pages of the files, the list of associated names - witnesses, police officers and other accused or suspects - as well as the report submitted to the procurator fiscal on two of them.

“They were all historic crime files - only one was from that year.

“One of them was even from before she had joined the service so there should have been no direct link for her involvement.

“When officers access the system they are given a warning.

“It reads ‘You should not access Crimefile out of curiousity or for your own personal business. You must not browse information out of curiousity or as a perk of the job. To do so is likely to be a criminal offence. You may be required to justify your use as being for a legitimate policing purpose’.”

Short, 30, of Glenrothes, Fife, pleaded not guilty on summary complaint to three charges under the Data Protection Act.

She is accused of accessing confidential information on the Police Scotland computer system in October 2012.

PC Short is accused of obtaining personal data relating to two men from Fife Constabulary’s Crimefile system and the Scottish Intelligence Database for non-policing purposes in a separate incident.

The summary trial before Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC sitting alone without a jury, continues with the next date of evidence set in January.

Sheku Bayoh, 31, collapsed and died after being restrained by several officers who were following up reports of a suspect wielding a knife.