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18 April 2011, 14:47
A Hertfordshire police community support officer has been jailed for leaking confidential information to the press.
Emma Smiter's illegal tip-offs, one of which related to an allegation of attempted murder, appeared in reports in national newspapers including The Sun and Daily Mirror.
The material, taken from Hertfordshire Police computers, was passed to a news agency journalist and then on to the wider media.
The 26-year-old, of Great North Road in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, has been jailed for 12 months at Basildon Crown Court, a court official said.
In March, a jury at the court found Smiter guilty of misconduct in a public office and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Smiter, a former local newspaper reporter with the Welwyn and Hatfield Times, had denied the charges. During the trial, prosecutor Richard Scott said that Smiter breached police and public trust with her various disclosures.
On one occasion, this involved revealing the name of a woman alleged to have been the victim of an attempted murder, the court was told.
At the time, detectives had deliberately withheld the woman's personal details from the public for legal reasons. Information about a charity box at a police station in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, being “£12 short'' also appeared in a newspaper, to the embarrassment of the force.
Smiter joined the Hertfordshire force as a police community support officer in 2008. Once in this position, she passed some of what she knew to Neil Hyde, a director of the INS news agency, jurors heard. On arrest, she claimed certain details had come from blogs rather than police files.
But the court heard she fabricated the internet material to support her defence and deliberately misled a jury. When interviewed, she admitted she “knew the rules'' about police holding personal data and denied being responsible for passing information to Mr Hyde between 2008 and 2009. She claimed she had only ever used police computers and emails for legitimate reasons and had been “just friends'' with Mr Hyde.
A police spokeswoman said Smiter resigned from her post at Hertfordshire Police - where her father, Inspector Rod Reeves, serves - after she was convicted of the offences. The spokeswoman added: “By taking this approach we hope to show our absolute commitment to protecting our information systems and dealing with those who abuse them. Emma resigned from the service of Hertfordshire Constabulary shortly after her conviction.''