A former award-winning police officer who tipped off his Thai prostitute girlfriend about a raid on her brothel has escaped a prison sentence.
Chris Murdoch, UK Community Police Officer of the Year in 2006 was caught in a police sting operation as part of an investigation into the brothel being run by his then girlfriend Rattanaporn Smith, in Castlerock, Co Londonderry.
Yesterday, the 44-year-old, whose address was given as Coleraine Police Station, was told by Judge Corinne Philpott that while he “thoroughly deserved” to go to jail, she accepted he had already been punished enough given the repercussions for him and his family.
He was sentenced to 200 hours community service.
Murdoch, who resigned from the PSNI after 20 years service, admitted attempting to obstruct police in June 2008, by calling his Thai girlfriend to warn her just prior to police raiding her flat.
Murdoch, who was unaware his phone was being monitored, had been voted policeman of the year for his outreach work in the Chinese community.
Judge Philpott told Murdoch the most significant and aggravating feature of the case was that he was a serving police officer at the time.
The judge added that while Murdoch had brought the force into disrepute, police “have behaved in an exemplary manner in rooting you out”.
Judge Philpott also told Murdoch that she found “it hard to understand” how, at his age, he got involved in such a situation.
The judge said that Murdoch had once been an exemplary officer, but by his actions he had let the force, community and family down. She told Murdoch his sentence would allow him to put something back into the community.
Earlier, prosecutor Neil Connor revealed when unmasked by undercover police, Murdoch denied any knowledge of the brothel, but admitted knowing Ms Smith, also known as Nong, later given a suspended jail term.
However, Mr Connor added that during 20 subsequent interviews Murdoch admitted not only knowing Nong, but also paying the £1,200 deposit for her Main Street flat in Castlerock and having a relationship with her.
The lawyer said that between May and June 2008 Murdoch had made 121 calls to Nong, and during some of those calls Murdoch had asked how business was and how many customers she had.
Defence QC Karen Quinlivan said the consequences for Murdoch have already been serious. He has now been vilified by his community, and is often the target of abuse on the street. This was in stark contrast where Murdoch had once been a highly respected officer.
Ms Quinlivan added that Murdoch had accepted guilt and deserved credit for his plea, made as it was, at the earliest opportunity, and which had saved an undercover officer having to give evidence in a public court.