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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Officer escapes jail over neglect
Matthew Turner. Pic by Jim Stewart
Matthew Turner had faced up to five years in jail
A policeman who threw away details of more than 14 crimes and invented excuses as to why they should not be investigated has escaped jail.

Matthew Turner carried out the shirking campaign at Falkirk Police Station between November 2004 and August 2005.

The crimes included two assaults, a housebreaking, three thefts and eight incidents of vandalism.

Turner admitted 14 charges of wilful neglect of duty when he appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court last month.

On Thursday, he was ordered to carry out 225 hours community service. The court heard he was only the third police officer in Scotland in recent memory to face a criminal court on similar charges.

Members of the public, and the public as a whole, were entitled to expect them to be investigated
Sheriff Craig Caldwell

Turner, of Fallin, near Stirling, could have faced up to five years in jail.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Craig Caldwell said: "Whether or not these crimes were serious or minor doesn't matter - they were serious and important for the members of the public who reported them to you.

"Members of the public, and the public as a whole, were entitled to expect them to be investigated.

"Our rule of law relies on the public having confidence in the integrity of its police officers, and if that confidence is eroded, then the task facing your former colleagues is made that much more difficult."

Central Scotland's chief prosecutor, Geri Watt, said that when members of the public phoned up or dropped in to report crimes, Turner deliberately neglected to log incidents on the force's "Crimefile" computer system.

He made no reasonable inquiries to trace those responsible and repeatedly lied to other officers to get his caseload recorded as disposed off.

'Closed' cases

On one occasion, when he detained a man on suspicion of committing vandalism at a pub in Falkirk's Bank Street, he released the man without charge and failed to report the matter to the procurator fiscal.

He then lied to colleagues telling them the damage was an accident and the man was going to pay for it.

The offences came to light when he changed shifts and his new supervisor became suspicious about the fall in crime figures since Turner's arrival.

A routine audit by Central Scotland Police's professional standards department also noticed that a high number of crimes investigated by Turner ended being marked as "no crime".

Turner was suspended from duty in 2005 and first appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court in August 2006. He later resigned from the force.

The court heard the alleged crimes he had wrongly marked "closed" were all re-investigated. In one case a suspect was sent a warning letter but none of the cases were taken to court.

Defence agent David Hunter said Turner, who now works as a van driver, wanted to apologise.


SEE ALSO
Officer admits neglecting duties
30 Mar 07 |  Tayside and Central

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