Former Wiltshire PC jailed for offering story to Sun
Updated 4:41pm Thursday 17th July 2014 in News
A former Wiltshire Police officer was jailed for 18 months today for offering to sell a salacious story about a "womanising and bullying" colleague to the Sun newspaper.
A jury took just over an hour and a half to find Darren Jennings, 41, guilty of committing misconduct in a public office following a trial at the Old Bailey.
Jennings, of Saffron Walden, Essex, had denied asking the tabloid to pay £10,000 for information about his colleague, Sergeant Mark Andrews, in September 2010, claiming he was "set up".
Sentencing him, Judge Charles Wide told Jennings his crime was particularly serious because of the embarrassment he could have caused to so many people if the story had been published.
He told the married father-of-two: "This was an isolated endeavour but what you did was very serious.
"You were trying to line your pockets to the tune of £10,000 and doing so by making allegations against one of your colleagues who had been convicted but not sentenced, later to be acquitted.
"You also make allegations against other people, police officers, of a salacious kind.
"As far as Sgt Andrews is concerned, you provided information that you hoped would be published that he had committed repeated crimes of violence; that he bullied a female police officer into having a mental breakdown; that he regularly used excessive force.
"You accused him of promiscuity that would have caused embarrassment not only to him but to his wife and children - imagine how they would have felt reading that story you wanted to plant for £10,000 in a tabloid newspaper."
The judge went on: "The sheer number of people who were going to be at least gravely embarrassed and potentially have career damage as a result of your scheming bid makes this a particularly serious case."
The court heard that Jennings contacted the Sun in September 2010 after Sgt Andrews had been arrested over an assault in custody.
Jennings, using the pseudonym Robert Stone, sent an email to a journalist saying the married sergeant had had affairs with colleagues, including a police community support officer (PCSO), an ex-PCSO and a Special Constable, the court heard.
He alleged that Sgt Andrews took part in a threesome with another male officer and a female police officer and regularly went to a strip bar in Salisbury, prosecutor Oliver Glasgow said.
The defendant also alleged that the sergeant used excessive force towards members of the public at Salisbury police station and on one occasion slammed a woman's head against a concrete floor, jurors were told.
Sgt Andrews was convicted at Oxford Magistrates' Court of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but that was later quashed on appeal, the trial heard.
Jennings told the Sun journalist: "I'm taking a massive risk in giving this information and have an enormous amount to lose by doing so if I am found out."
The story was never published and Jennings's contact emerged only after officers trawled through millions of emails in the Sun database as part of the phone-hacking investigation in 2012.
Police linked him to the Sun through an examination of his laptop and home phone records, jurors were told.
When he was first interviewed by police, Jennings claimed that he had had problems with Sgt Andrews and other colleagues unhappy about his personal relationship with a female officer who became his second wife, Rachel.
He said that, before they got together, Rachel confided in him that Sgt Andrews had made a pass at her and she told him "in no uncertain terms" that it was not going to happen, the court heard.
Problems at work escalated to the point where Jennings was posted away from Salisbury and he launched a grievance against another colleague, jurors were told.
But when he gave evidence in the witness box, Jennings could not identify any particular officer who had a sufficient grudge against him to set him up by using a Hotmail account under a fake name which was linked to his laptop.
Under cross-examination, Mr Glasgow said: "Don't you agree when you look at it and stand back, it does look like you are guilty, doesn't it?"
Jennings replied: "The evidence against me does seem compelling evidence. Even though it is compelling, I will still stand here today, tomorrow, and next year and deny the allegations put before me, because I'm innocent."
In mitigation, Jennings's lawyer, Tom Godfrey, said: "It was salacious, it was unpleasant but it was not of a compromising nature."
Jennings's wife suffers from ME and is "heavily reliant" on her husband, he added.