Former officer appears in court on corruption charges
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A former South Wales Police officer has appeared in court after an investigation by the force’s Professional Standards Department uncovered his corrupt behaviour.
Concerns were identified about Richard Helling through the proactive work of the Anti-Corruption Unit which found that he had abused his position as a Police Constable with four victims of crime who he had met through the course of his duties.
He initiated personal contact with them on his personal phone and attempted to form a relationship with two victims of crime and formed a sexual relationship with a further two.
Following his arrest, Helling contacted one of his victims and asked them to delete messages between them. Consequently, he was arrested for attempting to interfere with a criminal investigation and delete evidence implicating him in his criminality.
The investigation established that the officer had accessed police computer systems for a personal use, carrying out checks with no policing purpose and passed information on to the public.
Helling appeared at Swansea Crown Court in July and pleaded guilty to four counts of corrupt/improper exercise of police powers and privileges, contrary to section 26, Criminal justice and Courts Act 2015, perverting the course of justice and two counts of computer misuse contrary to section 1 and 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. He was sentenced to 15 months.
Following his conviction, Helling, who joined the force is 2018, resigned just days before an Accelerated Misconduct Hearing on 3rd August chaired by Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan, who found that the allegations amounted to gross misconduct and delivered the sanction of dismissal without notice if the officer had still been serving.
At the hearing Mr Vaughan said: “Police officers should be trusted to the ends of the earth, they hold precious private information and have access to people who are often in crisis and in need of help, the fact that former PC Helling has taken advantage of his privileged position in this case means that his breach of trust is shameful and unforgivable.
“As is evident in this case I will stop at nothing to seek out those people who are determined to abuse their authority and damage the trust people are entitled to have in policing.
“The vast majority of the 5,500 officers and staff who work for South Wales Police conduct themselves impeccably and work tirelessly to protect the public, those very few who choose to breach the standards expected of them undermine the public’s trust in policing. There is no room for this type of conduct in South Wales Police.”
In 2019 HM Inspectorate of Constabulary published its report ‘Shining a light on betrayal: Abuse of position for a sexual purpose’. One of the recommendations was for police forces to use monitoring software to effectively detect misuse of their systems and the information they hold. Forces should also make the most of opportunities to examine data about how their staff use force systems and phones, it said.
Last year, South Wales Police was identified as one of two forces to be graded as a good following an inspection by the inspectorate of how the force deals with corruption and the vetting of officers and staff. The inspection looked at how effectively police forces carry out vetting of its officers and staff, how effectively it protects information and data it holds and how well corruption is dealt with.
This case has highlighted how the use of monitoring software and other investigative techniques can shine a light on corruption.
Head of professional standards, Chief Superintendent Mark Lenihan, said: “Had it not been for the investigation of the Anti-Corruption Unit utilising proactive monitoring software and other investigative techniques, then this criminality would have remained undetected and the individual would still be a police officer acting corruptly within our communities and abusing his position.
“The vast majority of police officers and staff are dedicated public servants who would never contemplate this inexcusable behaviour.”