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Disgraced cop, 55, spared prison term after admitting he abused police systems to snoop on his girlfriend's ex

120 hours' community service and suspended sentence for computer misuse and data protection crimes

A police officer who quit while under investigation for computer misuse crimes has walked free from court after pleading guilty to a total of nine offences.

Michael Westbury, 55, of Aberystwyth, Wales, confessed to seven charges under the Computer Misuse Act and two under the Data Protection Act at Aberystwyth Magistrates' Court on 1 October.

At the time he committed his crimes, Westbury was a constable with Dyfed-Powys Police. The Powys County Times reported that he had "dishonourably" left the force after being caught "unlawfully accessing information about the ex-partner of a woman he was in a relationship with" at Aberystwyth Police Station in April and May last year.

Westbury was charged after the Office for Police Conduct, a regulator, launched an investigation following a referral by Dyfed-Powys Police.

District Judge David Parsons handed Westbury a suspended sentence of six months' imprisonment and 120 hours of community service, with the local paper reporting that the offender had an otherwise "unblemished record during 24 years of service". He must also pay a total of £207 in prosecution costs and victim surcharge tax.

Unlawfully accessing state databases is not an uncommon crime among police, though few ever face the courts for it. One who did was Metropolitan Police sergeant Okechukwu Efobi of Harrow, London, who was caught monitoring an ongoing criminal investigation that had nothing to do with him. Like Westbury, Efobi also walked free from court with community service.

Statistics show that prison sentences in Computer Misuse Act cases are unlikely, though some offenders do find themselves behind bars, usually if a victim suffers financial loss or similar harm. ®

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