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14 December 2011, 17:01
A policewoman who looked up confidential information about an investigation into her boyfriend's close pal has been convicted of misconduct.
Hannah Quince, 29, used computerised search systems inside Luton police station to try to find out what her colleagues had on the man.
Quince, who has since resigned from Bedfordshire Police, carried out the searches just hours before the man, Ben Sturge, was due to be arrested and interviewed by officers from the guns and gangs unit.
She then passed on the information to him through her boyfriend, Christopher Shri.
Yesterday a jury at St Albans crown court found Quince from Bedford, Shri, 30, and Sturge, 30, guilty of conspiracy to commit an act of misconduct in a public office. They were all bailed by Judge Andrew Bright QC and will return for sentence in the New Year.
Beverley Cripps, prosecuting, said that last November Quince was based in Luton and dealt with sex workers in the town. Christopher Shri and Ben Sturge were long time friends.
In November of last year Bedfordshire Police's guns and gangs unit were seeking to arrest Mr Sturge for an alleged offence of conspiracy to possess a firearm.
Miss Cripps said:
"Hanna Quince abused her position as a police officer to interrogate and look up police intelligence systems on behalf of Ben Sturge." She said the request to do it had come from Mr Shri who had then passed the information to his friend.
"Any information she could get as to what police had on Ben Sturge would be very useful to Sturge indeed because when he was arrested and interviewed, he would be informed about what the police had on him".
On the morning of November 24 last year police went to arrest Mr Sturge at his home in The Risings in Bedford.
He was not there but enquiries led police to his friend Mr Shri at his home in Little Head Land, Bedford and he was asked to provide a contact number for him.
Miss Cripps said he gave the officers one mobile number, but not a second that he was to subsequently use to speak to his friend.
The police visit to Mr Shri's home was: "the start of a sequence of events that led to Hannah Quince making illicit enquiries."
Soon after the police had left Mr Shri's home, mobile phone records showed he was calling Quince at her home. On November 25 last year, having been off sick the day before, Quince went into work.
During she sent her boyfriend a text message which read "Hopefully be able to update you about 6pm."
That evening at Luton police station Quince used a number of police search systems to find out what her colleagues in the guns and gangs unit had on Sturge.
The jury were told that one search system she didn't use was the Police National Computer because she knew it was "heavily audited" and her enquiries might be spotted.
Miss Cripps said the officer also used the name of a colleague from the guns and gangs unit to trawl for information.
At one point Quince was searching through computerised search system dealing especially with forensic matters when she came across what she thought was an important piece of information regarding Sturge.
Miss Cripps said: "It showed her some sort of forensic link between Mr Sturge and the guns and gangs unit" and she said phone records again showed the officer had broken off to call her boyfriend."
The police did speak to Ben Sturge and it was arranged he would hand himself in at 11am on November 26 last year when he would be formally arrested and interviewed.
Miss Cripps said:
"Ben Sturge was on notice he was to be questioned and would have very good reasons to want to know what the police had on him."
Giving evidence Quince said she went on to a police computerised search system in a Luton station to look for the information because she was "curious," but she denied passing it on.
She said the fact that police officers had visited her own boyfriend's home in their search for Ben Sturge was "bugging" her.