Former Wiltshire PC guilty of trying to sell story to Sun
Updated 2:45pm Thursday 17th July 2014 in News
A former Wiltshire Police constable has been found guilty of offering to sell a story to the Sun about a "womanising and bullying" colleague.
Darren Jennings went on trial at the Old Bailey charged with committing misconduct in a public office.
Jennings, 41, who now lives in Saffron Walden, Essex, denied asking the Sun to pay £10,000 in exchange for scandalous information in September 2010, claiming he was "set up".
But the jury of six men and six women found him guilty following a trial.
The court heard that the twice-married father of two contacted the Sun about his colleague Sergeant Mark Andrews, who had recently been arrested for an assault in custody.
Jennings, posing under the pseudonym Robert Stone, sent an email to a journalist saying the married sergeant had affairs with colleagues, including a police community support officer, special constable and an ex-PCSO, the court heard.
He alleged 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.
He went on to claim the officer bullied a colleague who later had a mental breakdown, the court heard.
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.
Asking for £10,000 for the information, 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 problems with Sgt Andrews and other colleagues unhappy about his personal relationship with a female officer who became his second wife Rachel.
He said before they got together, Rachel confided in him that Sgt Andrew 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 computer.
He insisted at the time an email was sent to the Sun, both his personal laptops had been left in his work tray while he was at home on days off.
He went on to explain away a phone call to the Sun from his home number. He said he received a text asking him to call urgently and thought it might be to do with his sister, who has cystic fibrosis and was living in London.
When he realised it was the Sun, he advised the journalist to go through the force press office, he told the jury.
But 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."
Earlier, Mr Glasgow told the court: "It is clear from the email sent by Darren Jennings to the (Sun journalist) that he was fully aware of the potential consequences of his actions.
"The leaking of information to the press in expectation of such financial gain in this way has a corrosive effect on public trust and confidence in the police as a whole. However, he did not care about this. All he cared about was his bank balance.
"Even Jennings himself recognises that the offer to sell scandal to a national newspaper is a gross breach of trust placed in police officers, which is why he has sought to blame others for what he has done.
"His attempt to suggest that he has been the victim of a conspiracy which has seen one or more people plot against him to incriminate him in this sordid affair is just as desperate as it sounds.
"The truth of the allegations is that Jennings has now been found out and has no answer for what he has done."
The jury retired to consider its verdict at around 12.20pm today and returned a unanimous guilty verdict just after 2pm.