When South Wales Police had concerns over the probity of two of their officers - Detective Sergeant Stephen Phillips and Detective Constable Jason Evans, they resorted to some Hollywood film style tactics to find out just how honest they were.
On the pretext of conducting a search relating to a suspected armed robbery, the two officers were dispatched to a house in Neath that had been rigged with audio and video surveillance in advance. They had placed “including around £21,000 in cash, watches, an iPhone and even Viagra.“
The two officers took the bait and were later caught, pleading guilty on 17th April 2014 in Cardiff Magistrates’ Court. The case was adjourned for sentence, with the District Judge warning them they faced prison.
What will they get?
The build up of the piece implied scenes of thousands of pounds being taken in scenes worthy of the corrupt cops of Hollywood. “Cardiff Confidential” would be slightly less dramatic DS Phillips made off with £250. Perhaps worse, DC Evans seemingly ignored the piles of cash and high-value electronic goods in favour of two disposable biros.
The Theft Guidelines are in theory the starting point. In practice these go out the window, as a police officer stealing in these circumstances will almost inevitable be sent to prison to send a message out that such behaviour is unacceptable.
Here, you can’t help feeling that the police who set up the sting were after something more – it’s a lot of effort to go to for such low level corruption. DS Phillips is certainly at risk of prison – stealing cash from a crime scene is certainly serious. Cash is obviously untraceably generally and when someone is arrested with cash and drugs which go “missing” (it happens, particularly with drugs) there is often an incentive for the loser to keep quiet about it. Personally I would give him a suspended sentence, but he may face a short immediate prison sentence of a couple of weeks.
DC Evans is, to my mind, in a different category. If everyone who stole biros went to prison, then our prisons would be even more overcrowded than they are now. Even given that he was dishonest (as he accepted by his plea, although if I were on a jury I would find it hard to say that that was dishonest unless there is more to it than appears in the new reports), it is of such a low level that the loss of his career (he will be sacked whatever the sentence) is more than a sufficient punishment.
So, we will come back to it when they are sentenced, but as we saw last year, it is not the case that all officers who steal are jailed (although that is a far less serious set of circumstances).