A corrupt police worker has been jailed after she tipped off a criminal friend about a secret investigation.
Natalie Mottram, 25, was caught in an undercover sting operation set up to trap who was leaking secrets to criminals.
The intelligence analyst, who worked for the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), told friend Jonathan Kay about information held on him allowing him to avoid detection.
Mottram, from Warrington, was jailed for three years and nine months after admitting misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and unauthorised access to computer material.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Mottram started work for Cheshire Police in 2017 as an apprentice before being seconded to ROCU.
She had worked as part of Operation Venetic - the National Crime Agency (NCA)-led UK response to the takedown of the encrypted communications platform EncroChat, used by gangsters and serious criminals across Europe to avoid detection.
But, the court was told, soon after the operation began it became clear to investigators that there had been a leak.
Mottram, whose job involved making threat assessments of organised crime gangs, told Kay, 39, about the covert EncroChat operation, and that officers had intelligence on him.
On 24 April 2020, a friend of Kay, who cannot be named for legal reasons, messaged another EncroChat user to say he had learned that day about law enforcement infiltrating the platform.
And he messaged a second contact: “I no (sic) a lady who works for the police. This is not hearsay. Direct to me. They can access Encro software. And are using to intercept forearms (sic) only at the moment.
"There (sic) software runs 48 hours behind real time. So have ur burns one day max. And try to avoid giving postcodes over it.”
‘Burns’ refers to the delete time on messages.
He added: “Her words was are you on Encro, I said no why, I only sell a bit of bud. She said cool just giving you heads up. Because NCA now have access.”
By 12 June 2020 NCA investigators began to suspect Mottram was responsible for the leak and placed her under surveillance, devising a plan to catch her.
Her bosses asked her to analyse an intelligence log referring to Kay, who was the partner of Mottram’s close friend Leah Bennett, 38.
However, the log was fake and only shared with Mottram.
When Mottram left work, she drove straight to Kay's house in Warrington. The two were close friends due to their shared love of exercise, and she even had her own key to the house.
The prosecution said this is when Mottram corruptly informed them about the intelligence log concerning Kay.
Telecomms data also shows the same evening Bennett’s phone contacted a phone belonging to the partner of the man who cannot be named, arranging a 20-minute meeting in a supermarket car park.
Later that day, Mottram, Kay, and another man were arrested, and £200,000 was recovered from Kay's house.
In August 2023 Mottram admitted misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and unauthorised access to computer material.
Kay admitted perverting the course of justice at an earlier hearing. He was jailed for 30 months on 3 November.
John McKeon, head of the NCA’s anti-corruption unit, said: “Operation Venetic is a once in a generation investigation which has made a huge contribution to public protection.
“But Mottram’s actions had the potential to derail all that.
“There is no place for corrupt officers in UK law enforcement and it was vital that this investigation uncovered her betrayal.”
Assistant Chief Constable Jo Edwards, head of the North West ROCU, said: “The overwhelming majority of people who work in policing do so to protect the public from harm, and they devote years of service to that end.
“Sadly, the actions of Natalie Mottram undermine the good work that is being done daily by her colleagues here at the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit.”
Superintendent Simon Parsonage, head of professional standards at Cheshire Constabulary, said: “As this case demonstrates, nobody is above the law and I want to reassure the public that we are committed to doing all we can to root out any officers or staff who fail to meet the high standards that the people of Cheshire expect and deserve.”
The NCA inquiry was part of an Independent Office for Police Conduct-directed investigation.
Rosemary Ainslie, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime Division, added: “Mottram’s corrupt actions were a gross breach of trust and had the potential to be hugely damaging to a very important and large-scale investigation into EncroChat and organised crime.
“It is clear she displayed a flagrant disregard to policies around handling sensitive information and fell well below the standard expected of a police employee.”
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