Friday, July 4, 2008

Policeman escapes jail after stealing confiscated cannabis 'to ease work traumas'

A policeman who stole and smoked cannabis which had been confiscated from criminals has walked free from court.

Constable Paul Smith, 33, said he turned to drugs because he was struggling to cope with the stress of being a policeman and the 'traumas' he had seen.

He was caught red-handed after his fellow officers realised drugs were going missing from the custody suite and set up surveillance cameras.

Smith, whose wife is expecting their second child, confessed to the thefts during interviews with his colleagues.

In one case, his actions altered the course of an entire investigation.

The offender who was originally found in possession of the drug was charged with having a smaller amount.

Southwark Crown Court heard that in April last year one of Smith's colleagues at Holborn Police Station in London noticed that an exhibit bag which contained cannabis had been tampered with.

It was subsequently discovered that out of 18 bags of marijuana that should have been locked in the custody suite store cupboard, only 15 remained.

Forensic examinations were carried out on different bags and Smith's fingerprints were found.

Prosecutor Travers Sinanan said: 'A CCTV camera was put in place and surveillance was started.

'This went on for some time and the defendant was seen going into the custody suite, staying there and leaving within a certain time.'

Smith was filmed holding the drugs, and when he was arrested, an exhibit bag was found stuffed in his wallet next to his warrant card.

Jamie Carr, defending, said Smith had previously been obtaining cannabis from street dealers.

But he said: 'He became concerned that the people he was buying from were joining up the dots and realising he was a policeman.'

Mr Carr said Smith's father had died at the time of his offending and he was not coping well with the grief.

He added: 'He expressed that he was also struggling with the trauma lots of police officers have to deal with. He has had to deal with some very unpleasant incidents.'

Mr Carr said Smith would face a 'great risk' if placed amongst the 'general prison population'.

The court heard that when Smith resigned from the force, he had his first good night's sleep since becoming a policeman.

Handing him a six-month jail sentence suspended for 12 months, Recorder Philip Bartle QC told him: 'You don't need me to tell you how serious your offences are.

'As somebody who was a police officer, you will know only too well that your behaviour brought disgrace on you, your family, your friends and the police force.'

The judge continued: 'You suffered the death of your father and the extreme effects of the good work you did, in terms of the injuries and other matters that you have seen in the course of your career, which clearly caused you great distress.'

Smith, of Finchley, North London, pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft from the Metropolitan Police and two counts of possession of cannabis.

The case will come as a fresh embarrassment to the police service, which has already been criticised this week for falling standards.

An official report said some officers show an astonishing lack of professionalism, including scruffy appearance, refusal to put themselves in danger and slapdash paperwork.

The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary warned that the police service's 'traditional ethos of discipline' is being eroded, and called for urgent action to halt the rot.


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