Police officer keeps job despite data on 55 registered sex offenders found in skip

A police sergeant has kept his job despite him being found guilty of gross misconduct after sensitive information about sex offenders ended up in a skip.

Martin Skirving-Chehab, a Cleveland Police officer for 15 years whose work has been officially commended twice, will receive a final written warning for breaching professional standards when he took two Lidl carrier bags of material home from a police unit for managing sex offenders.

His mother-in-law accidentally put some of the documents in the household recycling and a work book he used was found in a skip by a dog walker and passed on to The Sun newspaper last June.

The officer (pictured) was in the maternity unit with his wife who had just given birth to their first child when he was contacted by a superior officer about the serious security breach.

On the third day of a disciplinary hearing, the hearing chairman Jayne Salt said: “The panel has decided that the conduct amounts to gross misconduct because there was a sustained failure to take data protection seriously, leading to significant reputational harm to the police and a risk of serious harm to members of the public – namely 55 registered sex offenders whose data was allowed to enter the public domain.”

After hearing submissions by counsel for the force and for the 42-year-old sergeant, the panel decided a final written warning was appropriate.

Joan Smith, for Cleveland Police, had recommended that Sgt Skirving-Chehab, who used to work in sex offender management before becoming a family liaison officer dealing with murder cases, should receive that level of reprimand.

He had removed the documents from the Middlesbrough sex offender unit while he was on a day off after meeting a superior about a job opportunity.

He then stored them at his Hartlepool home, which was being renovated, for some weeks and they ended up in his kitchen.

The hearing was told he should have sorted the papers at work and disposed of them appropriately so there was no risk of them escaping into the public domain.

Nicholas Walker, for Mr Skirving-Chehab, had argued the public would not be best served by losing such a good officer.

Mr Walker said the officer had received commendations for his work in helping the family of murdered pensioner Norma Bell, and saving an elderly woman with dementia from the North Sea.

One of Mrs Bell’s sons wrote to the hearing to commend his work, saying: “It’s difficult to put into words how grateful my family and I still are for him helping us through the most difficult of experiences.”

The panel said that written reference was particularly persuasive as Mr Skirving-Chehab had changed the son’s perception of the police for the good.

Mr Walker said the officer had spent 18 months – the entirety of his baby’s life – with the disciplinary hearing hanging over him, and he had suffered from stress but managed to keep going in his career, despite being on restricted duties.

Mr Walker had urged the hearing at the Grand Hotel, Hartlepool, to give him a written warning.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.