By Paul Thornton
A COP who illegally used a high-powered police database to fish for intelligence on people she knew has been fined after first quitting her job.
Anna Wong, 26, used the Scottish Intelligence Database (SID) to look-up police information on dozens of members of the Chinese community who were being looked into by officers.
Bosses at Lothian and Borders Police were tipped off that she had been looking into two people who she was friendly with and her activity was audited.
She was suspended on full pay and later charged with 54 offences in respect of the Data Protection Act and admitted 28 of them.
Wong – originally from Hong Kong – has now resigned from the force after more than 18 months on paid leave.
Today at Edinburgh Sheriff Court she was fined £1,000, but it emerged she will dodge a professional misconduct hearing.
Fiscal depute Neil Almond told the court how Wong had been recruited by the Edinburgh force in 2005 and was told during basic training that access to the database was only to help specific police enquiries.
Wong also completed a 45 minute online course on the restrictions regarding the search tool before being given access to it although she claims there were “grey areas” over accepted use.
Lothian and Borders Police say they are now supervising the courses and carrying out training at offices to ensure officers understand the rules fully.
Mr Almond said a year after Wong joined the force other officers were tipped-off that she had been abusing the system.
He said: “The offences first came to the attention of Lothian and Borders Police at the end of 2006 when they received information suggesting that a female police officer was friendly with two named individuals.”
After looking into the allegations it was revealed that Wong had been checking the information held on those two people, as well as several others from St Leonards Police Station in Edinburgh on November 6 that year.
Wong – who was working as a community constable – was interviewed and claimed that she knew one of the men and wanted to check whether he had given police fake details and identification.
Wong claimed she had been given intelligence on the other person by a third party not connected with the force and wanted to check on him.
But she failed to record any of these tip-offs in the system and was unable to explain why she had also been delving into several other peoples’ files.
In January 2006 she was suspended on full pay.
She remained on garden leave until last month when she handed in her notice and was discharged from the force last week.
Mr Almond said because Scottish police forces cannot make officers remain in the force pending a disciplinary hearing, she will now face no professional sanctions.
Wong is now temping in offices and said her income has dropped by half.
Her solicitor David O’Hagan said the incident had been hanging over his client for 18 months and had been the source of shame to her.
But he insisted her training had been lacking.
Mr O’Hagan said: “There were certainly areas that could be described as grey areas.
“Her position was that if information was gathered by a general fishing expedition then in that view that could be seen as generating a police purpose.
“She now accepts that that is not the position.”
But Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie QC said Wong’s claim that she did not know what she was doing was wrong did not tally with the training measures in place.
She said: “She repeated that during the entirety of her training she was not aware that SID should only be accessed as part of policing purposes. That seems not to accord with what the procurator fiscal has said.”
Sheriff Jarvie added: “I remain of the view that this was a very serious breach of trust.
“It is absolutely imperative that members of the public have complete confidence in the integrity of police forces.”
However Sheriff Jarvie said she had taken into account the fact that Wong had already resigned and that she was a first offender.
She added that she was satisfied at the measures taken to prevent similar offences in the future.
Sheriff Jarvie said because Wong, who lives in Edinburgh, had pleaded guilty as soon as possible the fine had been from £1,500.