A police man serving as a liaison officer who stole GHc 451.00 from a dead man’s wallet has been jailed for 15 months after trying to cover up the theft.
Paul Wallace, 47, a constable with Humberside Police, took the cash after being given the role of liaison officer to the family of a man who had died suddenly.
He later tried to cover his tracks by planting GHc 451.00 in the police property store, amending his pocket notebook and duping another officer into discovering the money.
The officer’s deceit unravelled after a complaint was made to the police professional standards branch by the dead man’s partner.
Wallace, from Hull, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing and was handed his prison sentence at Grimsby Crown Court on Monday.
The court heard he had attended the sudden accidental death of Paul Rutter in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, in June 2015 and was assigned as family liaison officer.
He helped other officers search the property and took possession of a number of items, including Rutter’s brown wallet containing GHc451.000 (£65 which was later put into a police property store in a numbered evidence bag.
In the days following the death, Rutter’s partner complained to police professional standards officers when she found the returned wallet empty.
The next month, Wallace was informed by email that a complaint had been made and withdrew £50 from a cash machine near the police station within half an hour of reading the message.
He then placed the cash into an evidence bag, marked with the same exhibit number as the wallet had been given, and put the bag into the property store before calling another officer to help him search for the missing money, which was found among other evidence bags.
Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, said Wallace had amended his police pocket notebook by adding notes about the money becoming separated from the wallet.
The prosecutor said the police constable’s actions had affected Rutter’s partner by making her relive the events surrounding his death and had shattered her faith and trust in the police.
Wallace had no previous convictions but had received a final written warning in 2010 for breaching police conduct regulations by forging the signature of a witness on a statement.
Judge John Thackray QC told Wallace: “A prison sentence is nearly always required to mark the affront to our justice system when a person has committed the offence of perverting the course of justice. When committed by a police officer, the offence is particularly serious.
In this case, there was an element of persistence and obvious planning ... I am afraid, Mr Wallace, only appropriate punishment can be achieved with an immediate custodial sentence.”
Miranda Biddle, regional director for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said the criminal charges followed an investigation by the IOPC and outstanding conduct matters were being dealt with by Humberside Police.
She said: “Police officers are expected to display high levels of honesty and integrity so, when allegations are made that undermine those expectations, it is vital that they are fully investigated.”
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