Inspector used police computer system to help lover then forged notebook to try and get away with it

A high-ranking Welsh police officer corruptly accessed information for a woman, then forged a notebook in an attempt to deceive a jury. The former South Wales Police chief inspector Joseph Jones took a “truly epic” fall from grace, a court heard.

Jones, 48, misused a police computer system to gain information on a woman, who had been his cleaner and at one time had sexual activity with him. The woman was also a landlady who became involved in legal action against her tenants — and Jones used the Niche system to look for information about them.

The former officer sobbed in the dock of Newport Crown Court as prosecutor Andrew Davies said: “The defendant had risen through the police force to the rank of chief inspector. At the time of the first offence he was stationed at Fairwater police station in Cardiff. He had been in contact with a lady who was originally his cleaner in the Swansea area… It became obvious in due course that there was a greater connection between them.”

Jones’ offence took place in 2015 but was not exposed until 2021, after the woman was involved in a Class A drug dealing investigation. “The woman wasn’t a part of that conspiracy but her offending was related to that,” said Mr Davies.

An audit revealed that Jones had made unauthorised searches of police records on two of the woman’s tenants and their children, who were aged 10 and 12. “It is clear the defendant drafted a document with the specific aim of helping the woman in her civil claim,” the prosecutor told the court.

Jones initially claimed the woman had been “nothing more” than a cleaner to him. Yet investigations uncovered a document he had drafted but not submitted, which mentioned she had “spent the night at his property and there had been sexual activity between them”, Mr Davies added.

Jones denied misusing the system and attended court in September for his trial. After the jury were sworn in, he declared he had found a notebook in his house the previous day. The book contained notes appearing to show the computer searches were for a policing purpose.

But the document immediately aroused suspicion. Mr Davies said: “The ink appeared to be a slightly different shade to other ink on the page and it appeared to have been added onto the bottom of a page.”

The trial was aborted so the Crown Prosecution Service could pursue a forensic examination of the book, which was kept by Jones. Police then searched the homes of Jones and his partner but the book was never discovered.

“It’s clear, the prosecution say, that he fabricated the entry purporting to be from 2015 and didn’t provide the book because he knew it was in fact a forgery,” said the prosecutor. Jones, of Tyfica Road in Pontypridd, later admitted the computer misuse offence and perverting the course of justice.

His barrister Peter Binder said Jones’ mistakes have had an “utterly catastrophic impact”, adding: “His career is ruined. His future hopes are shattered. His mental health is in tatters. His professional standing is reduced to nothing. There are massive financial implications for his future as a result of his dismissal from the force. Your honour, his fall from grace, while self-inflicted, is truly epic in nature.

“Mr Jones’ sister speaks of a selfless brother who has always been there for her and their late mother in times of need. She speaks also of the mental health difficulties she has observed in her brother, triggered by the very fateful decisions he has taken.

“His partner speaks of the very high professional standards she has observed him to follow, and the loving support he has provided her, especially in the difficult times of Covid when both were in their own ways very much on the frontlines of public service.”

Mr Binder said that his client had given “long and dedicated” service as an officer and that jail would be “more onerous” for him than for an “ordinary offender” because of his policing past. The barrister added: “The Niche searches, when broken down in relation to the children, were but for a few seconds. The defendant had seen a name, clicked on the name to see if there was any relevance, and when it turned out be a child, he very quickly moved onto another topic… There is no question whatsoever of any information being disseminated for money or to a criminal fraternity.”

Judge Daniel Williams said Jones had “lied his way” through interviews about his computer searches. He told the defendant: “Your overblown denials failed to persuade those investigating your conduct… You took your hubris to a new level when you turned up at trial claiming to have found a daybook from 2015. You waited to declare this miracle discovery until the jury had been sworn in, cynically hoping that by leaving it so late, it would be accepted. It was an act born of arrogance which was an insult to the court and the justice system you have served for so many years.”

The deception led to two days of court time being wasted, on top of the costs of investigating the notebook. The judge said that if Jones had not forged the book he would have received a suspended sentence. “The computer misuse alone would not justify immediate imprisonment, but the perversion of the course of justice does,” he added.

Jones was in tears as Judge Williams imposed a 14-month jail term. As security staff led him from the dock, he blew a kiss to his family in the public gallery.

Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “It is entirely unacceptable for police officers, who are responsible for enforcing the law, to break the law themselves. It is both a public expectation and a legal requirement that, information obtained during the course of policing duties should be treated in the strictest confidence, properly protected and used for legitimate policing purposes. Personal reasons for accessing confidential police information is not acceptable.”

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