Belfast Telegraph

Detective's career in jeopardy for using PSNI intelligence systems to check up on ex-girlfriend, court hears

A detective repeatedly accessed PSNI intelligence systems without authority to carry out his own personal surveillance in a Co Antrim village, a court heard today.

Robert Andrew Cooper was fined a total of £3,100 after admitting 12 counts of obtaining or disclosing personal data - many of them connected to an ex-partner.

With the 53-year-old's police career now in jeopardy, his lawyer described it as "a terrible fall from grace".

Between June and November 2010 Cooper, a detective constable whose address was given as being care of PSNI Antrim, carried out as series of checks on incidents for which he had no investigative responsibilities.

Belfast Magistrates' Court was told he had been carrying out his own examination and surveillance on what was going on in the Crumlin area.

"He regarded it as a police unfriendly area and he seemed to take it upon himself to make his own inquiries," a prosecution lawyer said.

Cooper accessed command and control files, along with the criminal intelligence system, to find out about a road traffic incident involving his former partner.

He also looked into reports of damage to the door locks at her home and silent and nuisance phone calls.

Further incidents involved checks on the police arrest of her brother and the service of a non-molestation order on another one-time partner of this woman.

Guilty pleas were entered ahead of a planned contested hearing.

Defence counsel Conn O'Neill set out how Cooper has served in the PSNI for 11 years since quitting a job in the food industry to realise his ambition of becoming a detective.

"He himself has strayed far from the path," the barrister said.

"This is a sharp and significant and terrible fall from grace for this defendant."

Twice-married Cooper is no longer with the woman at the centre of his unauthorised intelligence searches.

"That relationship has been his downfall," Mr O'Neill contended.

The court also heard that anti-police graffiti naming the defendant had appeared in Crumlin.

With Cooper currently suspended from the PSNI, his lawyer acknowledged further disciplinary repercussions may follow.

District Judge Amanda Henderson agreed, telling the detective: "Clearly this was a breach of trust in which you were working as an officer when you accessed this information.

"As a result your employment may well be in jeopardy."

Imposing the only available sentence of a fine for each offence, Judge Henderson warned Cooper he could be jailed if he fails to pay in time.

Leaving the court he replied: "Thank you very much."

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