Former Wiltshire PC said to have offered information to Sun blamed colleague after arrest (From This Is Wiltshire)
Former Wiltshire PC said to have offered information to Sun blamed colleague after arrest
A former Wiltshire Police constable accused of offering to sell information to the Sun about a womanising sergeant pointed the finger at another colleague after he was arrested, a court heard today.
Darren Jennings, 41, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of contacting a journalist in 2010 with claims that Sergeant Mark Andrews had a threesome with colleagues and used excessive force against two members of the public at Salisbury Police Station.
Jurors were told that Jennings denied any wrongdoing when he was arrested in 2012 and told police he suspected a colleague who socialised with Sgt Andrews of stitching him up by passing on the "malicious information".
During a police interview read out in court, Jennings was asked if there were "quite a few people with an axe to grind" against him, and the defendant replied: "That's a fair assumption."
He explained the bad feeling towards him began after he became close to a female colleague.
To start with they just "provided each other with a shoulder to cry on" during the break-up of their marriages and categorically denied rumours of a work romance.
During that time, she had confided in him that Sgt Andrews made a pass at her and "she told him in no uncertain terms it was not going to happen", the court heard.
By 2009, they had both separated from their partners, and Jennings said: "It became common knowledge we were in a relationship and the general feeling from Mark Andrews was he was not happy."
The following year, they were living together and had "nothing to hide whatsoever", Jennings said in the interview.
But some colleagues were unhappy about them working on the same shift. On one occasion Jennings needed assistance at a road traffic accident, but his girlfriend, who was nearest to the scene, was called off going to help, he told police.
After he complained, Jennings was told he was would be posted away on the basis of ten reports against him of which he had been unaware and had no opportunity to defend himself, jurors were told.
He carried out his own investigations into the "232 reports" and launched a grievance against Wiltshire Police.
Jennings, of Saffron Walden, Essex, said at the time he felt like he was being "targeted".
He denies a charge of committing misconduct in a public office in September 2010.
Sgt Andrews was convicted at Oxford Magistrates' Court of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but that was later quashed on appeal, the Old Bailey trial heard.
Even though emails were recovered which showed the information about Sgt Andrews was circulated between Sun journalists in 2010, no story was ever published in the newspaper.
Later, Jennings went into the witness box and described how he joined the police in 2002 and spent a year working for South Australia Police before returning to Wiltshire as his first marriage was in trouble.
He said he was treated differently at work after he started a relationship with the colleague who was to become his second wife Rachel.
His lawyer Tom Godfrey asked him: "Did you feel part of a team?"
Jennings replied: "To begin with everything was fine but gradually as time went on we did feel a distance, specifically to Mark Andrews.
Mr Godfrey asked: "The allegation is you tried to sell a story to the Sun newspaper. Is that something you did?"
Jennings said: "No."
The lawyer went on: "Obviously someone tried to sell information to the Sun. Do you know who that person was?"
The defendant said he did not.
He told the jury that at the time the email was sent to the Sun, both his laptops had been left in his work tray while he was on days off.
Jennings was also asked about a phone call from his home number to the Sun newsdesk lasting three minutes and 22 seconds.
He said he had received a text from a London number asking him to call urgently.
Assuming it was to do with his sister who suffers from cystic fibrosis and was in hospital at the time, he called the number, he said.
"I don't recall the person's name who I spoke to. They asked me various questions, asking me to confirm or deny information they had received," Jennings told jurors.
When he realised he was talking to the Sun newsdesk, he told the journalist to contact the press office, he said.
Asked why he did not report the conversation, Jennings said: "Stupidity and tunnel vision with the complaint I was compiling."
Under cross examination prosecutor Oliver Glasgow repeatedly asked the defendant who he thought might dislike him enough to go to such great lengths to incriminate him in a crime he did not commit.
Referring to people named in his police interviews, Mr Glasgow asked if he thought it could be Sgt Andrews, or Sgt Simon Stone who was also implicated in the sexual exploits detailed in the email to the Sun, or another sergeant.
Jennings said that it "could be" one of them, before adding: "It could be anyone in the police force I have crossed swords with. I don't know."
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.