Sheku cop had “no reason to access crime files”

PC Nicole Short was injured in the incident which led to the death of Sheku Bayoh (above)
PC Nicole Short was injured in the incident which led to the death of Sheku Bayoh (above)

A cop said to have been badly hurt in the incident that led to the death of Sheku Bayoh “had no legitimate policing purpose” to access a string of crime reports about a pair of brothers, a court heard today (Thursday)

PC Nicole 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.

Today (Thursday) the second day of Short’s trial heard from a senior counter-corruption officer from the former Fife Constabulary’s Professional Standards Unit.

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 a man called 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.”

Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia asked: “You have made a statement in your report saying that there was no obvious policing purpose to have accessed the crime files. On what basis do you make that statement?”

Mr Beveridge replied: “She was not a witness in the cases, meaning she wouldn’t directly need to review her own workload on them.

“Also, 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, 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 also 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.

Sheku Bayoh (31) - a father-of-two - collapsed and died after being restrained by several officers.

The case is currently being investigated by the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC).

Police Federation bosses say Short suffered “significant” injuries during the incident that led to the 31-year-old’s death.

Short’s summary trial before Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC, sitting alone without a jury, continues.