Staffordshire police worker jailed for illegally accessing images of bodies including murder victims
A former police worker has been jailed for three years after he unlawfully accessed thousands of images of crime scenes, traffic accidents and post mortem examinations - including pictures of the bodies of murder and crash victims.
Darren Collins previously worked as a digital forensics specialist for Staffordshire Police.
His job was to analyse devices seized in the course of criminal investigations. He pleaded guilty in November to misconduct in a public office.
Prosecutor Simon Davis QC told a judge at Birmingham Crown Court the 56 year-old had "created his own pathways" to access databases he would not have permission to view in the course of his work, including the Collision Investigation Unit Database.
What has the court heard?
Sometimes, Collins would copy images to memory sticks and take them home, the court was told - though he never shared any of them.
Officers who raided his home in March 2019 seized more than 60 devices including tablets, laptops and USB drives.
Collins told investigating officers that he found forensics science "fascinating" but there was "no malicious intent" in what he had done.
But Mr Davis said Collins had “a morbid and inappropriate interest in death and the way in which crime scenes depict death”.
The court heard Collins had searched for a website called Best Gore, where images of death and death sites are shared, though he himself had not uploaded images to the site.
Police worker Collins had a 'morbid and inappropriate interest in death', court told
Several witness statements from the relatives of some of the people in the photographs were read to the court.
One man whose wife had died in a fire said: "Since I have been told about the photographs I have thought about it constantly.
"It is absolutely shameful for someone to do this.
"Where is the dignity for my wife and myself? I still cannot believe why a person would do such a thing.”
Sentencing Collins to three years in jail, Judge Roderick Henderson acknowledged that the defendant was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of having to view images of child sexual abuse in the course of his work.
None of the images that Collins had accessed illegally were of this nature.
Collins has been jailed for three years for accessing the images
Judge Henderson added that offending of this kind undermined public confidence in the police.
Of the relatives of the deceased, Judge Collins said: "These people suffered dreadfully at the losses of their loved ones.
"To discover now that you were looking at images of them for nothing but curiosity is a further grievous insult to them, their memories and their families."
Collins - who had worked for Staffordshire police for 20 years - will have to serve half of his three year sentence before he can be considered for parole.
How have Staffordshire Police responded?
Staffordshire Deputy Chief Constable Emma Barnett said: "Collins pleaded guilty to a serious criminal offence and today’s sentencing reflects that.
"I’m very sorry for the additional distress that Collins’ actions caused to the families of the victims involved.
"We expect the highest levels of honesty and integrity from all of our officers and staff and anyone who falls below these standards will be held to account.
"The force is promoting a safe and open culture which makes clear to officers and staff that they are duty bound to challenge and report behaviour that does not align with the Code of Ethics."