Jail for ex-Pc over Gerrard footage
A corrupt policewoman has been jailed for 22 months after seizing CCTV footage of a street bust-up to be used as a "tool to blackmail" Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard.
Helen Jones, 32, a former Pc with Merseyside Police, obtained the footage by "flashing her warrant card" to the manageress of a bank.
The incident involved friends of Gerrard, the then-England captain, becoming involved in a row with other men at a bar near his home in Formby, Merseyside, which spilled out on to the street and was caught on the CCTV cameras of a nearby bank.
Local businessman Paul Lloyd, 35, claimed Gerrard "threw the first punch" but, at an earlier hearing, prosecutors said the Liverpool midfielder was acting as a peacemaker on the evening of August 4 2013.
Jones, formerly of Formby, now living in Chatham, Kent, did not deny improperly using her status as a police officer to get the CCTV and admitted misconduct in a public office but claimed she was doing a favour for a friend.
But during a three day hearing, known as a trial of issue last November, Judge Stuart Baker said he found her account "wholly implausible", ruling Jones acted for "base motives" and described her as a "practised and persistent liar".
He said the CCTV was secured to use it "possibly as a lever to cause Mr Gerrard to pay money to suppress it or, at the very least, to use it in a away which would potentially cause embarrassment, as has in fact occurred".
Jailing her today Judge Baker told the defendant: "This was deliberate and calculated misconduct in a public office."
The judge added: "You deliberately created a false impression in the mind of the bank manager that you were investigating a criminal offence.
"In fact you were on a mission to obtain that matter so that you could put it either directly or through an intermediary, who would use it for his own ends, which were nothing whatsover to do with a criminal investigation."
Judge Baker said while Jones may not have known who, eventually, the CCTV would be passed to or for what purpose, it had caused Liverpool's Gerrard, and his friend Lee McPartland, "serious personal embarrassment", and damaged the reputation of Merseyside Police.
Jones made no reaction as she was jailed, though she had wept earlier when her lawyer recounted some of the "trauma" she had faced while on duty as a police officer.
Jones, who joined the police in 2005, was off-duty and on a career break when she went to the Lloyds branch in Formby and took the footage, which the prosecution claimed was for "criminal purposes".
Earlier the court heard Jones got her hands on the CCTV to allow Mr Lloyd or another person, to use it as a "lever" to cause Steven Gerrard to pay money to suppress it or use it in a way to cause him potential embarrassment.
Mr Lloyd claimed Gerrard and his friends assaulted him, and following the incident the footballer and his friend Mr McPartland, faced "demands and threats" amid an atmosphere of "unpleasantness" and "menace" with claims of money being offered by the press for the footage.
Gerrard was later named in legal papers lodged by Mr Lloyd at the High Court claiming damages following the disturbance.
The civil case named Gerrard, his wife, Alex, and Mr McPartland, as defendants.
But Richard Howarth, prosecuting, said Mr Lloyd, who gave evidence at the earlier hearing, was "an untruthful witness who sought to exploit his involvement in this incident and he maintained his deceit in the witness box".
The prosecutor added: "There is still no extant proceedings in the High Court, which given his performance in the witness box, is hardly surprising."
Mr Howarth said the actual CCTV, which has never been made public, was a "side issue" in Jones' admitted offence of misconduct.
Gerrard's lawyers and Liverpool FC became involved and police called in with their investigation leading to Jones's arrest and her resignation from the police.
Roderick Jones, mitigating for Jones, said: "We are dealing with a single event in which a serving police officer on a career break took a decision to essentially, catastrophically bend the rules to breaking point and in doing so, broke them.
"This is a shameful and criminal aberration."
Outside court Detective Chief Inspector Andy O'Connor, of Merseyside Police, said: "Today's result sends out a clear message to both members of the public and our own police staff and shows that Merseyside Police is committed to providing the public with a professional service and we will not tolerate any abuse of office.
"The behaviour of this former officer was completely unacceptable and serves to undermine the public's confidence and trust in the police. We are quite clear, no officer is above the law. If any officer is found to be behaving in a way that does not meet our high standards we will take swift and robust action.
"For this reason Merseyside Police will not tolerate such criminal behaviour. This former officer let down her colleagues whom day in, day out, provide a professional and quality service to members of communities across Merseyside.
"I would also like to thank the Crown Prosecution Service and the prosecution team for all their support throughout this case and the investigation team, for their professionalism and commitment throughout this investigation."