A CUMBRIA police call handler who used the force’s computer system to dig for data on her criminal boyfriend has been sentenced by a judge.
Genna Fowler, 26, began civilian work in the Carleton Hall headquarters communications centre at Penrith in 2014. Her job involved dispatching emergency service personnel to incidents, and use of a computer system on which warnings regularly reminded staff that access to sensitive information was strictly for legitimate purposes.
“She was trained in how to use the police computer system and was well-versed in the dos and don’ts of the system,” prosecutor Richard Archer told Carlisle Crown Court. “Genna Fowler, the Crown say, clearly understood that it was a criminal offence to disclose personal data without the consent of the data controller (chief constable).”
In May last year she began a relationship with a crook who was jailed later that month for drug-dealing. Days before his sentencing, the pair exchanged kisses on text messages and she later visited him in prison.
On May 4, Fowler had made an illegal search on the police computer for information concerning him and his associates. Almost a fortnight later she again secured access to data concerning him, and then used the computer unlawfully once more to screenshot details of a sexual offence complaint which she sent to a male through Facebook Messenger.
She was arrested, and police seized phones containing messages with the two men. She was suspended by Cumbria police but initially denied the offences and, as her case proceeded towards trial, she pocketed wages totalling more than £22,000 and, latterly, had begun a dog minding and walking business.
At court today (FRI), Fowler, of Spittal Farm, Wigton, admitted knowingly obtaining or disclosing data without consent, and had previously admitted cannabis possession. Steven Reed, defending, said she was “at a loss to explain” why she committed the data crimes, and was “clearly remorseful for what she has done”.
Noting the maximum punishment was an unlimited fine, Recorder Nicholas Clarke QC ordered Fowler to pay a total of £4,570. “It was necessary that a great deal of trust was reposed in you,” said the judge, “and it‘s important that the police and the public can rely of people of integrity to do that very important job.” But he added: “You chose to break the law.”
Fowler is now set to face a police misconduct panel.
A Cumbria Constabulary spokesman said after today’s hearing: “Cumbria Constabulary has high expectations of its officers and staff regarding their integrity and professionalism.
“The Constabulary puts a particular emphasis on its responsibility for managing and protecting the sensitive information it is trusted by the public to hold.
“I can assure the public our officers and staff take this responsibility extremely seriously. However, this staff member has not maintained these standards and has acted in a way that allowed sensitive information into non-police possession. This is unacceptable.
“I can assure the public we will act whenever there is evidence of misuse of police systems and, as in this case, where a criminal offence has been committed, we will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to bring the person responsible before the courts.”