Two police officers jailed after sting operation

Two police officers jailed after sting operation

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We looked a couple of weeks ago at the case of DS Stephen Phillips and DC Jason Evans who pleaded guilty to theft after a ‘sting operation’. In brief, despite a lengthy service on both of their parts (including receiving commendations) suspicions were aroused as to their probity and so they were directed to search a house (in reality, one that had been wired for sound and video by the police). Here DS Phillips was seen taking £250 in cash, DC Evans two pens.

Both were getting custodial sentences, we opined. Although in the case of Mr Evans this did seem one that could be properly suspended.Well, on 28th April 2014 both were sentenced, and both got immediate custodial sentences of 22 and 12 weeks respectively.

The Judge noted that this was clearly a great breach of trust, which it undoubtedly was. The Theft Guidelines go out of the window in a case such as this and the length of the custodial sentence cannot really be complained about by either of them.

In relation to Mr Phillips, as Andrew commented on the last piece “cash is cash” and he cannot really complain about the sentence. I still feel that Mr Evans didn’t have to go to prison for this case. Theft by a police officer on duty is undoubtedly serious and “passes the custody threshold”, but for me the loss of his career is sufficient for theft of two pens and I would have thought that a suspended sentence would have been a proper punishment in his case.

There is no word yet as to whether there will be an appeal – we shall have a look out for it.

 

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

5 COMMENTS

  1. As a “sting” operation had been set up, this indicates to me that the two were under suspicion for some time. Would this have been considered in the sentence rather than just the offence before the Court?

  2. Dan, my only observation is that the Sentencing Guideline on theft in breach of trust notes,

    ‘In many cases of theft in breach of trust, termination of an offender’s employment will be a natural consequence of committing the offence. Other than in the most exceptional of circumstances, loss of employment and any consequential hardship should not constitute personal mitigation.’

    The question then, is whether the loss of a policeman’s job (and pension) on conviction amounts to ‘exceptional circumstances’ for the purposes of mitigation and sentencing. I’d say ‘not’, and although the outcome appears harsh, that general rule must operate not only to try to achieve parity between the offender with a well-remunerated job and the offender with a less-well remunerated job, but also as a deterrent. Most police officers are probably honest, but for the one of two tempted to exploit their privileged position, loss of employment and very public opprobrium must have a deterrent effect.

    The problem with the sentence is fitting these facts (theft of two pens) into the sentencing guidelines. As a judge mused only yesterday, in unusual cases we must not be mesmerised by the sentencing grid, and this is certainly an usual case.

    • Jon, yes certainly agree that as a general rule the loss of employment isn’t a mitigating feature. I do think that there is a difference with police officers if they lose their pension – that is something that ‘normal’ offenders wouldn’t face and does make a difference (actually, I don’t see why a police officer who is convicted of a criminal offence should lose their pension, but that’s a different issue).

      But, I guess this is more a reaction to the fact that, whatever the circumstances, 12 weeks inside and loss of job/pension is too much for theft of a couple of biros!

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