A Notting Hill cop who illegally used the police database to to track down a woman he believed had scratched his car may lose his job.
Scotland Yard detective Craig Marcham, 24, ordered that the driver be traced on the Police National Computer (PNC) after finding the scratch on his Mini Cooper which he had parked at Thames Court pub, in Shepperton, Surrey on May 24 2015.
Having got her address, he delivered a handwritten note to her house saying she had been caught on CCTV and should contact him before he called the police.
Marcham, who was attached to the CID in Notting Hill police station, was in tears as he left Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday (February 5), having narrowly avoided being sent to prison.
He was instead handed a £685 bill, and now faces a Met Police disciplinary panel which could result in him losing his "cherished career".
'Kind regards, Craig'
Mr Edward Martin, prosecuting, said: "The defendant's Mini Cooper was parked in a public car park.
"On leaving, the defendant noticed that there had been some damage to the Mini Cooper on the right hand side door. It had been scratched.
"The CCTV at the pub had been reviewed by the defendant and he thought a red car had hit his vehicle and drove off."
Believing the damage had been caused by a red Citroen Berlingo, he reported the damage to Staines Police Station. But the owner denied causing the scratch when contacted by Surrey Police, saying she had no damage to her vehicle.
Refusing to give in, Marcham gave a colleague a CRIS (Crime Report Information System) number for another case on June 1 and asked her to find out his suspect's address.
Mr Martin said: "He had gone on the PNC and got her address and, rather than letting Surrey Police carry out their own investigation, the defendant has gone to the victim's address and put a handwritten letter through her door."
The letter read: "Hi, I believe you may have struck my car whilst it was parked in Thames Court car park on May 24.
"This is down to the fact it was seen on CCTV and I have damage on the near side.
"Please contact me on provided telephone number. I will await your call before I contact the police. Kind regards, Craig'."
The victim contacted Surrey Police as she was worried by how the writer of the note had got her address. Marcham's request for her details were found in the PNC log.
Mr Martin said: "The other officer didn't know anything about what else was going on. He believed they were legitimate requests."
John Reynolds, defending, said of Marcham's actions: "Whether it was in anger and frustration or whether it was stupidity and naivety on his part or a dangerous mixture of both would lead him to what he did next, but it has very damaging repercussions.
"He concedes what he did was clearly unlawful and he realises that was not a genuine police operation in relation to his duties.
"He has lost that cherished career he worked so hard to have."
District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe eventually decided a custodial sentence would be inappropriate due to the significant implications to his career.
She said: "One does not want police officers for whatever reason doing something that is wrong.
"Clearly you knew it was wrong because you got the person operating the PNC a CRIS number that you knew had nothing to do with the vehicle.
"I accept you never intended to distress this lady. The fact the details you put on the note were your own were not in any way sinister and merely foolish and ill considered.
"This is such a serious infringement."
She gave Marcham of Bracknell, Berkshire, a £500 fine and ordered him to pay a £50 victim surcharge, £50 compensation to the victim and £85 court costs after he admitted a charge of knowing or recklessly obtaining personal data.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "He remains on restricted duties at this time.
"Now that criminal proceedings have been completed we will be able to complete our disciplinary process."